Royal Visit to The Helicopter Museum - July 2007

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh visited The Helicopter Museum, in the afternoon of Friday 20th July 2007, to unveil a plaque commemorating the opening of the new Engineering and Conservation Hangar. The Hangar, recently completed, was built using money largely raised by the Volunteers and the Friends. The Queen and the Duke looking at Wessex HCC.4, XV773, with Museum founder Elfan ap Rees The Duke of Edinburgh arrived at 2.35 pm and the Queen, following a visit to a Childrens' Centre, joined him to unveil the plaque. They both signed the visitor book before departing together, by helicopter, for London. Nearly a hundred Volunteers and Sponsor representatives, who have supported The Museum since it was opened in 1988, attended.
The Duke of Edinburgh chatted with many of the Museum Volunteers Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733, formerly of The Queen's Flight Elfan ap Rees thanks the Royal Couple (photo by Alan Norris)
The Duke of Edinburgh signs the Visitors Book Bidding Farewell to Her Majesty (photo by Alan Norris) The Royal party leave The Museum in a Royal Flight Sikorsky S-76C, G-XXEA
The Duke of Edinburgh was shown the Museum displays by Elfan ap Rees, Founder of The Museum and Chairman of Trustees. He was introduced to the Restoration Manager, Steve Whittaker, who introduced him to several Conservation Team Leaders. The Duke then went into the new hangar to have informal conversations with many of the Trustees, Staff, Volunteers and Sponsors who had gathered there. Following the arrival of the Queen, she and the Duke spent some time looking at Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733, acquired by The Museum in 2001 after 25 years service with the Queen's Flight. After formally opening the new Conservation Hangar and signing the Museum visitor book the Queen, the Duke and members of the Royal party left in Sikorsky S-76C, G-XXEA.

A few days previously Chairman of Trustees, Elfan ap Rees had said "We all feel tremendously honoured to be hosting the Queen on this auspicious occasion. The visit is a huge tribute to the Volunteers and Sponsors who have kept the faith and made The Museum such a success".

Westland Whirlwind HCC.12, XR486

Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733, formerly of The Queen's Flight
Westland Wessex HCC.4

Sikorsky S-76C, G-XXEA

Westland Whirlwind HCC.12

Sikorsky S-76C

Duke of York's Visit 2002

His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, visited The Helicopter Museum on Monday 24th June, 2002, to officially open the recently completed Exhibition Hangar. It was the Prince's first visit since he opened the Museum itself on 3rd November 1989 Prince Andrew prepares to unveil a plaque. Prince Andrew was shown round the exhibits by the Chairman of Trustees, Elfan ap Rees. The Prince was introduced to sponsors, operators, representatives from industry and many of the volunteers, including the Museum's restoration teams.
Bell 222 G-NOIR The Prince talks with 'Sox' Hosegood The Prince with the Kamov Ka26
Left: Prince Andrew arrived at about 10.20, flying in a Bell Model 222, c/n 47031, G-NOIR. He  was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset Lady Gass, and a large crowd of enthusiastic school children from nearby Locking Village. Centre: Touring the new hangar the Prince paused to talk with C.T.D. 'Sox' Hosegood who, as Chief Helicopter Test Pilot for The Bristol Aeroplane Company in the 1950s and early 60s, had flown some of the helicopters on display including the Bristol Sycamore G-ALSX, alongside, which he declares to be his favourite helicopter of the many he knew. Right: Steve Whittaker, Restoration Manager, shows the Prince some of the unusual features of the Kamov Ka-26, then nearing completion of its restoration as DDR-SPY.
Prince Andrew points out the Queen;s Flight helicopters.

Prince Andrew points a thumb at the Westland Whirlwind, XR486, in which he flew as a child, and beyond at the Wessex, XV733, in which he flew to the Museum in November 1989 to perform the original official opening ceremony.

Before he left the Museum, Prince Andrew unveiled a commemorative plaque in the Exhibition Hangar and congratulated everyone on the magnificent progress that the Museum has made and on the valuable work of skilled conservation and restoration which continues. He then proceeded, by helicopter, to Bristol where he toured S.S. Great Britain, the unique iron passenger ship built by I.K.Brunel, now restored and back in the dock where she was built and launched in 1843. After lunch he visited Toshiba's telecommunications research centre in Bristol. The following day he was due to attend events in Paris, in support of British Trade International.

Prince Andrew in Royal Navy Uniform

Prince Andrew's career in the Royal Navy

The Duke of York joined the Royal Navy in 1979. After passing out of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Prince Andrew went on to elementary flying training at RAF Leeming, Yorkshire, and later learnt to fly the Gazelle helicopter at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, in Cornwall. After conversion to the Sea King he joined 820 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) on HMS Invincible.

In 1982 Prince Andrew sailed, with his squadron on HMS Invincible, to the South Atlantic, as part of the Task Force which was despatched to regain the Falkland Islands. Throughout the conflict he flew Sea Kings on various missions including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), casualty evacuation and Search and Air Rescue (SAR).

The Prince was subsequently appointed to 703 NAS at Portland for Lynx conversion and, on completion in May 1984, served on HMS Brazen as the Flight Pilot. In 1988 he transferred to the General List for a year before joining 829 NAS and serving as Flight Commander until 1991.

In 1993 Prince Andrew, after attending a Command Course at Camberley Staff College, was selected to command the Minehunter HMS Cottesmore for 18 months, before returning to flying duties at RNAS Portland until October 1996.

A series of staff appointments followed until the Prince finally left the Royal Navy in 2001, after 22 years service, to become a roving ambassador for British Trade International, a government organisation responsible for the development of overseas trade and inward investment.

Arrival of the Royal Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733

Royal Wessex

Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733, formerly of The Queen's Flight, was delivered to the Museum on a low-loader, by the Royal Navy, on 15th November 2001.

After unloading in glorious sunshine the undercarriage legs were fitted before the Wessex was pushed into the Main Display Hangar where it is now on permanent display..

The twin-engined helicopter was built at Yeovil in Somerset and delivered to RAF Benson on 11th July 1969, where it served, with The Queen's Flight alongside XV732, until 1995 and was used by all the senior members of the Royal Family including the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Princess Anne and Princess Diana.

In August 1977 the Queen made her first ever helicopter flight, using XV733. She also flew in XV733 during tours of Northern Ireland in 1991 and !993.

In March 1995 The Queen's Flight was amalgamated with No.32 (The Royal) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, but the Flight was disbanded a few weeks later. XV733 and XV732 were replaced by a single Sikorsky S-76 in April 1998. The two Wessex had been in service for nearly thirty years and had made nearly 10,000 flights between them.

XV733 joins Westland Whirlwind HCC Mk.12, XR486, in The Museum. XR486 served in The Queen's Flight from May !964 until replaced by the Wessex in June 1969.

The Wessex was bought, at auction, by the Museum for £57,000, with substantial help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Since The Queen's Flight was privatised XV733 had been with a civil contractor, in storage at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire, having flown there , from Northolt, in March 1998.

Throughout June and July 2002 The Museum staged a special Golden Jubilee Exhibition which covered the history of The Queen's Flight Helicopters and included Wessex HCC.4 XV733 and Whirlwind HCC.12 XR486. Many of the exhibition photographs and, of course, the two helicopters, are still in place in the Display Hangar.

Whirlwind XR486 was on static display at RAF Fairford, as part of the Royal International Air Tattoo '100 Years of Flight' feature, for the weekend of 18th to 20th July 2003.

The Friends of The Helicopter Museum supplied volunteers to keep XV733 clean and tidy, so helping to preserve this valuable piece of aviation history. Volunteers are always needed for this and similar jobs.

Cockpit check Altimeter check

Checking the cockpit

Wessex washing

In the air, maybe for the last time


Fitting the legsNearly ready to be pushed in
Clearance check Leg check
On 17th November 2001, two days after its arrival at the Museum, XV733 was backed out of the Display Hangar for a couple of hours so that it could have a thorough wash and be restored to its usual immaculate condition. On the road journey south from Shawbury on the 15th, after a frosty night, it had been subjected to a lot of salt spray from the M6 motorway.

Wessex Interior 1

Westland Wessex HCC4,  XV733, with interior fitted for Royal duties.

Wessex Interior 2


The Royal Helicopters

Dates Serial Type Remarks

1947 & 1948


Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly

On loan from the Royal Navy for mail deliveries to the Royal Family at Balmoral. Now on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon.

1947 KL106 Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly On loan from the Royal Navy for mail deliveries
1948 KL973 Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly On loan from the Royal Navy for mail deliveries
1948 KK987 Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly On loan from the Royal Navy for mail deliveries
1948 KL104 Sikorsky R-4 Hoverfly On loan from the Royal Navy for mail deliveries
1954-58 XF261

Westland WS-51 Dragonfly HC.4

On loan to The Queen's Flight from the Central Flying School, South Cerney

1958-59 XJ432

Westland Whirlwind HC.2

On loan to The Queen's Flight

1959-64 XN126

Westland Whirlwind HCC.8

Later converted to HAR.10

1959-64 XN127

Westland Whirlwind HCC.8

Later converted to HAR.10

1964-67 XR487

Westland Whirlwind HCC.12

Crashed in 1967 with loss of all the crew.

1964-69 XR486 Westland Whirlwind HCC.12 Now on display at The Helicopter Museum
1967 & 1968 XT672 Westland Wessex HC.2 Loaned to the Queen's Flight from No.72 Sqn. for short periods.
1968-69 XP299 Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 18 month transfer from No.230 Sqn. Now on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon.
1968-69 XV726 Westland Wessex HC.2 Loaned to the Queen's Flight for crew training
1969-95 XV732 Westland Wessex HCC.4 Now on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon
1969-95 XV733 Westland Wessex HCC.4 Now on display at The Helicopter Museum

Roger Dudley, a member of the Friends of the Helicopter Museum, writing from Dorset in 2001, pointed out that three other aircraft, albeit fixed-wing, based at Weston Airport many years ago, had previous Royal connections. All three were owned by Western Airways Ltd, the first operator of the airport. They were:-

Registration               Type                              Dates at Weston
G-ABFV                    DH80A Puss Moth                1936-40
G-ADDD                    DH89 Dragon Rapide            1937-40
G-AHTB                    Percival Q6 Petrel               1946-47

Puss Moth G-ABFV was owned by the then Prince of Wales for eight months in 1931 and used during his tour of South America. It entered service with Western Airways in 1932.

Dragon Rapide G-ADDD was owned by the Prince of Wales from mid-1935 and absorbed into the newly-created King's Flight in July 1936. It was replaced by an Airspeed Envoy in 1937 and bought by Western Airways Ltd for £3,345.

Petrel G-AHTB, as P5634, was allocated by the RAF to The King's Flight from 1940-42.