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Anyone flown the Wessex?

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Anyone flown the Wessex?

Old 5th Feb 2003, 17:06
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Anyone flown the Wessex?

RAF Press Release - Last Wessex in Squadron service retires






Nearly 40 years after entering RAF service the last of the Westland Wessex, the longest serving rotary winged aircraft in RAF history, have been retired from 84 Squadron. One of the airframes retiring was XR588, one of the prototypes of the Wessex HC Mk2, a testament to the types durability and ruggedness.
A total of 60 Wessex helicopters in several versions were ordered by the RAF, and in a service life spanning the evacuation of Aden, through operations in Cyprus, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland, to the Falklands War through to the present day, the aircraft was to be flown in a number of roles the original designers could hardly have thought possible.

Originally intended as a troop carrier, the Wessex was first ordered by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines to equip their helicopter landing ships and airborne assault Squadrons. The Wessex provided a far greater lifting capability than the earlier Whirlwind, as well as greater range and speed, and it was with these characteristics in mind that the Royal Air Force ordered the Wessex to fill the support helicopter and air sea rescue roles, replacing the Whirlwind in both of these capacities. The new type proved a great success, giving field commanders greater flexibility of operation given its improved ability to deliver larger loads to front line areas and to provide reliable support. Improved versions were ordered with greater engine power and improved rotors, but the basic Wessex airframe changed very little over the years. The wide wheelbase made the aircraft very stable on rough or sloping terrain and proved very rugged, which when combined with the unusual low nose-mounted engine position, gave the Wessex a very low centre of gravity for a helicopter.

Aside from its intended roles as a support and air sea rescue aircraft, the Wessex in RAF service found itself used for border and shipping patrol in such areas as Hong Kong, where it also was used as an aerial policing platform. Three specially equipped versions were also ordered to provide VIP transport capability to the Queen's Flight, and throughout its service career the Wessex was also used in the aircrew training role at RAF Shawbury. During the Falklands war, the Wessex came into its own as the major helicopter type available to transport troops and supplies over the inhospitable winter terrain. One Royal Navy Wessex, now in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, was partly responsible for the destruction of the submarine Santa Fe off South Georgia, a target it attacked with its door mounted GPMG, surely a unique engagement in helicopter operations.
In Cyprus, now the home of the last operational RAF Wessex Squadron, 84, the aircraft has been used its two original roles of troop transport and Search and Rescue, but has also provided an important service to the Cyprus communities as an aerial firefighter. In 2002 serious brush fires in the hills surrounding several small villages threatened the lives and homes of the villagers, but the fires were brought under control by 84 Squadron Wessex's operating alongside civilian firefighters from hastily prepared forward operating locations. Underslung 'fire buckets' were used to douse the fires with both water and fire-retarding chemicals. Even in the twilight of its career, the venerable helicopter was still finding new roles.

The Officer Commanding the last Wessex Squadron, Squadron Leader Nicky Smith, was unstinting in her praise of the type. "People from other units have sometimes called it a museum piece!" she said, "and its true, it is not the most modern of aircraft, but I have developed a bit of a soft spot for it, and so have mixed feelings about the retirement." She continued, "I first flew the Wessex in training at RAF Shawbury, and went on to do a tour on a Sea King Squadron and a ground tour before I took over 84 as Commanding Officer. Of course, the Wessex has nothing like the lift capacity of the Sea King, nor any of its modern systems, but it is a tough airframe, you can really throw it about, particularly in the trooper role. In dusty conditions, like we often encounter in Cyprus, you can land the aircraft quickly and firmly without having to come to the hover as you do with other types, which reduces the loss of visibility due to the dust being blown up, and also minimises exposing the engines to damage from particle ingestion."

In the SAR role, the winch is positioned just behind the aircraft commander who is afforded an excellent view from the high cockpit, all of which makes it very easy to hover and manoeuvre accurately over small boats, so it is only fair to say the aircraft has some excellent features which explains its long service life. However, it is a simple aircraft, a function of the period that produced it, and one of the side effects of that is that the Wessex is not maintenance friendly in design. Some parts and systems on the aircraft are very difficult to get at, and it is a combination of the cost and time of maintenance and age of spares that have finally outlived the usefullness of the type."

"Although it is sad to see the Wessex go, this is also an exciting time for 84 Squadron as we will be introducing the latest version of the Bell 412 Griffin, the HAR2, specially equipped for the Search and Rescue role."

Replacing the 84 Squadron Wessex in the Search and Rescue role in Cyprus for an interim period are the Sea Kings of 203 Squadron, which is also the Sea King OCU. Squadron Leader Bob King, the OC of detachment, explained. "203 will be detached from our usual base of St Mawgan in Cornwall until late April, when the Griffin HAR2 introduction into service is complete." he said. As they took over the SAR stand-by responsibility from 84 Squadron, one of the 203 Squadron pilots had particular reason to celebrate. Squadron Leader Dane Crosby logged his 10,000th RAF flying hour during a training sortie from RAF Akrotiri. Dane has flown a wide variety of types in the service, from the Jet Provost to the Hercules, and said; "What I particularly enjoy about helicopters is it is hands on flying, no autopilots or computers, and flying an aircraft like this is still great fun! 10,000 hours is a lot of flying, but it also represents many more thousand hours of engineering and maintenance, not to mention the thousands of hours put in by the other aircrew members. 203 and Search and Rescue in particular is a team effort, so this is as much and achievement for the Squadron as anything."


Comments, stories from anyone with personal experience of the Wessex would be interesting.
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Old 5th Feb 2003, 18:44
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Can't help with any 'Wessex' stories, but I do remember 84 Sqn 'B' Flight, based at Nicosia, when they flew Whirlwinds in support of the UN. Time marches on!!
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Old 5th Feb 2003, 19:41
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Time does indeed march on.

I remember 84 squadron in Khormaksar, Aden, in 1967 but they were flying the Beverley then. The venerable Wessex was the workhorse of 78 squadron in that last year of, among other things, taxi-cabbing Mad Mitch and his "Arabian Knights" around the peninsula.

That was one tough aircraft which rarely, if ever, let you down.

Tommy Hooper was boss-cocky then and a better man you'd be hard-pushed to find. His jockeys were, almost without exception, the best guys in the RAF for the job. A whole lot of people owe a whole lot to these men. They were good!

Sad to see the end of such a memorable machine.
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Old 5th Feb 2003, 22:13
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WESSEX

I had the pleasure of being on the tail end of the IFTU for the Wessex Mk5 in Culdrose in 1964 or so. That squadron became 848 and went to the Far East on Albion in 1965 to replace Bulwark which had 845 Squadron on board with the Wessex Mk1. I still think it is best of the 7 twins I've flown, especially when you think how long ago it was built. I did 1035 hours in it without too many dramas, even when instructing in 707 Squadron!
Very sad to think it is finally passing away.
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Old 5th Feb 2003, 23:19
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Thumbs down

Hey, Heliport, how come this has got a blue peter five star rating with only 2 responses so far????

Anyone can give a rating, and you don't need to post a response to do so.
Heliport

Last edited by Heliport; 6th Feb 2003 at 05:41.
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Old 6th Feb 2003, 01:55
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Once or twice I have strapped myself into a Wessex - 2 years in Northern Ireland (72 Sqn), 3 years in Cyprus (84 Sqn), a year instructing at Sartu with a visit to 28 Sqn in Hong Kong, and another year instructing at Shawbury on it. Operationally you were almost always short of power and, when in hot and high conditions, ran out of tail rotor authority but the old girl always recovered and could be made to do some wacky things. Even if it did all go Pete Tong, that fabulous undercarriage would save you - even if you hit hard enough to trigger the 4G crash switches that shut the HP cocks!!!
There are so many apochryphal stories of Walter Wessex that the server would overload and I am sure that many PPruners have learned their trade in it.
It was a good SH heli and a brilliant winching platform for SAR, with a bit more power and top end it would have been excellent instead of just blo*dy good. It is the only helicopter built by Wastelands that hasn't been a crock of sh*t (even the Merlin is cracking already).
The Lynx Mk7 was the skidded GTI version as far as pilots helicopters go but the good old Wessex was truly Queen of the Skies>
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Old 6th Feb 2003, 21:30
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Question Success breeds....

With the great success the Brits had with the Wessex I can not understand why the US Navy never went with the HSS-1T which was a US Navy HSS (S-58) that was powered by two T-58s.

I believe this helicopter was flying prior to the Wessex.

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Old 6th Feb 2003, 22:36
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The Wessex has no manual throttle to use if the automatic engine control system fails. Any other twins out there like that?
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Old 7th Feb 2003, 04:22
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Arrow

LZ asked if the S58T preceded the Wessex: the S58T prototype first flew on 26th August 1970.

The first Wessex was originally an imported S58 (piston powered) which was converted to an 1100shp Napier Gazelle NGa.11 gas turbine, first flown 17th May 1957. The Wessex HAS1 first flew 20th June 1958, and the first twin Wessex was the RAF's HC2, flown on 5th October 1962, with two Gnome engines.

As with most other Wessex drivers, I had some interesting times, in both single and twin engine versions. Claim to fame was having "truckie's suntan". Right arm would be four shades deeper tan than the left, flying with the door/window open all the time
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Old 7th Feb 2003, 05:44
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Hey Eacott...how many white shirts did you own that had a pink left sleeve from the rotor brake leaking hydraulic fluid all down your left side?

.....and the pulled muscles from mashing a spongy brake after the tail wheel lock pin had snapped.....and always the weak brake was on the side the tail was swinging towards and never the other way around!
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Old 7th Feb 2003, 08:02
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Talking

White shirts? We weren't allowed white shirts, the black hand gang got upset that we may be "elitist", so company uniform was khaki. Good move, a) didn't show the Pilbara red dust much, and b) looked like the WA Police uniform, with associated benefits
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Old 7th Feb 2003, 15:09
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Question You misunderstood.

To: John Eacott

LZ asked if the S58T preceded the Wessex: the S58T prototype first flew on 26th August 1970.
The helicopter I was referencing was a converted USN HSS-1 and was a one-off. I do not know if the modification (switching the Avco Lycoming 1820 for two T-58s) was Funded by Sikorsky or by the US Navy. It was flying in the 1955-56 time frame

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Old 7th Feb 2003, 20:15
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The S-58T is my all time favorite helicopter of the slew I have flown.....absolutely loved the old girls .....just wish Sikorsky could have looked forward enough and reallly devoted some research and capital into modernizing the thing. Good blades, modern engines....a drip pan under the rotor brake actuator....elevator to the cockpit....Sperry three-or four axis autopilot.....what a dream it would have been instead of clattering around in a Brand X whop-whop....martini shaking....sheet metal rattling heap of fecal matter.
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Old 8th Feb 2003, 12:55
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I too had the pleasure of flying wessex V (and later wessex III).

Will always remember night flying with 'sparks' commimng out of the exhausts clearly 'upsetting'.
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Old 8th Feb 2003, 15:39
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LZ wrote:
The helicopter I was referencing was a converted USN HSS-1 and was a one-off. I do not know if the modification (switching the Avco Lycoming 1820 for two T-58s) was Funded by Sikorsky or by the US Navy. It was flying in the 1955-56 time frame.
Lu is quite right. In 1956, Westland purchased the rights to build the S-58/HSS-1. Almost immediately, they began a redesign of the aircraft to accept the Napier Gazelle turbine engine. First flight was May 1957. Sikorsky certainly must have known about the mod.

(Interestingly, in France Sud-Aviation also assembled-then-license-built S-58's for their armed forces. In 1962, they had their first flight of an S-58 equipped with two Turbomeca Bastan IV engines.)

Coincidentally in 1956 (as Lu mentioned) one HSS was re-engined to accept two G.E. T-58's. First flight was 30Jan 1957 and it was designated HSS-1F. But further development of that particular model was not undertaken. Why?

Well, sometime in 1957, the U.S. Navy issued a weapons requirement to combine the "hunter" and "killer" anti-submarine roles. Contract order was placed in December of that year. Drawing on their experience with the HSS-1, Sikorsky enlargened the cabin and rotor, installed the twin T-58's, and called the new model "HSS-2."

Who funded what is probably murky. Sikorsky was probably flush with all kinds of R&D money at the time.

Development of the S-58 languished (at least in the U.S.) for awhile, until 1970 when it became available with the Pratt and Whitney PT-6 twin-pac. Sikorsky must have been as surprised as anyone at the continued popularity and use of the aircraft.

All I can say about the S-58T is...flew it, loved it. Like SASless, it's probably my favourite aircraft of all time.
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Old 25th Feb 2003, 01:46
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Ah, the Wessex

I guess it has to be said the Wessex is/was a bit special, OK a bit underpowered but an excellent tool. You certainly had to learn how to get the best out of it. Lets face it thats what gives things character. A perfect helo would be no fun, great for doing a job but no fun. The Wessex was definitely fun. Like flying a house looking out the bathroom window, etc.
I could go on all day with my and mate's stories but all I can say it sad to see it finally go!
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Old 26th Feb 2003, 15:58
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Took a Lynx mate up for a flight in Walter. Not only was he amazed how versatile/agile it was but the look on his face as you drive the tailwheel into the muck was priceless!!

Queen of the Sky
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Old 27th Feb 2003, 11:32
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EESDL - but then I took a Wessex mate up in a Lynx and the look on his face as I rolled under and pulled through at 2000' was almost as good as the squeal on the intercom!
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Old 2nd Mar 2003, 18:39
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Thumbs down Wirr, Wirr, BANG.

A brand new H-34 was delivered to Fort Eustis, Virginia with only 16 hours on the clock. The first flight was to be commanded by a brand new Captain who recently transitioned from fixed wing to rotary. An instructor pilot accompanied him. For whatever reason he was twisting the throttle to help prime the engine. The helicopter was protected from starting by what is known as a throttle canceller. This unit was made up of several levers and push-pull rods as well as a micro switch. If the micro switch was open the starter could not be engaged. On this helicopter the throttle canceller was misrigged at the factory and when the pilot was twisting the throttle and pressing the starter switch the engine caught and with the throttle wide open everything went to hell in an instant.

The helicopter was equipped with a hydromechanical clutch that provided a fluid coupling to bring the rotor up to speed. The forces on the internal mechanism of the clutch failed and the rotor went into direct drive from the engine. So many of the dynamic elements were structurally damaged as well as the transmission support, the tail rotor drive as well as the intermediate and tail rotor gear boxes. The rotor blades were severely twisted and the fuselage suffered damage. The engine was shot and the landing gear was deformed.

With only 16 hours on the clock the helicopter was a write-off and it was turned over to the tech school as a training aid.


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Old 2nd Mar 2003, 20:27
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Crab
Typical !! Larry the Lynx pilot, fannying about up at 2000ft....do you need oxygen up there?
:-)
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