Day 8 of our Portrush Aircraft profile is the Historic Aircraft Flight Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk1 & Westland Scout AH Mk1 helicopters.
About the Historic Aircraft Flight
Formed in 1980, the AHAF were permitted to maintain one example of of each aircraft that the Army Air Corps operated since the formation of the new Corps on 1 September 1957. The six different AHAF aircraft types had a combined regular service of 146 years and it was unique by being the only display team in the world to fly both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
On 1st February 2015 five of the aircraft from the Army Historic Aircraft Flight (AHAF) were gifted and formally handed over to the Historic Aircraft Flight Trust. They will remain at their current location at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
Five of the aircraft, less the Chipmunk T10, are now registered with the civil register
Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk1
The Bell H-13 Sioux was a two-bladed, single engine, light helicopter built by Bell Helicopter. Westland Aircraft manufactured the Sioux under license for the British military as the Sioux AH.1 and HT.2.
In 1947, the United States Army Air Forces (later the United States Air Force) ordered the improved Bell Model 47A. Most were designated YR-13 and three winterized versions were designated YR-13A. The United States Army first ordered Bell 47s in 1948 under the designation H-13. These would later receive the name Sioux.
The Bell 47 was ordered by the British Army as the Sioux to meet specification H.240, with licensed production by Westland Helicopters. In order to comply with the terms of its licence agreement with Sikorsky Aircraft, which prevented it building a U.S. competitors aircraft, Westland licensed the Model 47 from Agusta, who had purchased a license from Bell.
The first contract was for 200 helicopters. The first 50 helicopters of the contract were built by Agusta at Gallarate in Italy followed by 150 built by Westland at Yeovil. The first Westland Sioux made its maiden flight on 9 March 1965.
The Sioux is a three-seat observation and basic training helicopter. In 1953 the Bell 47G design was introduced. It can be recognized by the full “soap bubble” canopy (as its designer Arthur M. Young termed it) exposed welded-tube tail boom, saddle fuel tanks and skid landing gear. In its UH-13J version, based on the Bell 47J, it had a metal-clad tail boom and fuselage and an enclosed cockpit and cabin.
Westland Scout AH Mk1
The Westland Scout was a light helicopter developed by Westland Helicopters. Developed from the Saro P.531, it served as a land-based general purpose military helicopter, sharing a common ancestor and numerous components with the naval-orientated Westland Wasp helicopter.
The type’s primary operator was the Army Air Corps of the British Army, who operated it in several conflict zones including Northern Ireland and the Falklands War. It was progressively replaced in British service by the Westland Gazelle reconnaissance helicopter, and the larger Westland Lynx battlefield utility helicopter.
Both the Scout and the Wasp were developed from the Saunders-Roe P.531, itself a development of the Saunders-Roe Skeeter. With the acquisition of Saunders Roe, Westland took over the P.531 project, which became the prototype for the Scout (originally called Sprite) and the Wasp. The initial UK Ministry of Defence(MoD) development contract was for a 5 to 6 seat general purpose helicopter.
The first version that met both RN and Army requirement, the P.531-2, flew on 9 August 1959 with a Bristol Siddeley Nimbus engine. A de Havilland Gnome engine-equipped version was also trialled, starting 3 May 1960.
The production Scout AH.1 used a Rolls-Royce Nimbus engine (RR having acquired Bristol Siddeley by then). The engine was rated at 1,050 shp (780 kW), but the torque was limited to 685 shp (511 kW).
Extensive theoretical design and practical testing was carried out to provide an undercarriage that was tolerant to ground resonance. The first Army Scout AH Mk 1 flew on 4 August 1960, a powered-controls version followed in March 1961 and deliveries started in early 1963.
Following trials ranging from Canada to Nairobi, the airframe was released for operations between -26C and ISA+30C
In Northern Ireland, the Scout pioneered the use of the Heli-Tele aerial surveillance system, having a gyro-stabilised Marconi unit shoe-horned into the rear cabin. The Heli-Tele unit weighed some 700 lb (320 kg), although later developments reduced this significantly.
The aircraft was also used for mounting Eagle patrols. In this role, the rear cabin doors and seats were removed and four troops sat in the rear cabin with their feet resting on the skids. Operating with two aircraft in unison, this allowed an eight-man patrol to be quickly inserted into an area and mount snap Vehicle Check Points (VCPs) if necessary. Up until 1973, the standard tail rotor colour scheme for the Scout was bands of red and white.
On 14 September 1973, a soldier died during training at Gosford Castle, Armagh, after coming into contact with the tail rotor blades whilst the aircraft was on the ground. Following this accident, the tail rotor blade colour scheme was changed to the distinctive black and white bands.
Because of the specialist nature of operations in Northern Ireland, a particularly important piece of role equipment was introduced in the form of the ‘Nightsun’ 3.5 million candle power searchlight. Operations at night were greatly enhanced with the introduction of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), although these missions could still be hazardous.
This was evident on the night of 2 December 1978, when the pilot of XW614, 659 Sqn, became disorientated during a sortie and crashed into Lough Ross, killing the two crew.XW614 was the last of five Scouts written off during operations in the Province.
Info from Historic Aircraft Flight website and Wikipedia and photo from Airwaves Portrush.
Check back tomorrow for two Portrush Aircraft profiles as we get ever closer to Portrush.