Westland History -

Please click on a thumbnail for the Aircraft Data Sheet.

Lysander " Lysander "
Probably the most famous of the Westland fixed wing aircraft...
Whirlwind " Whirlwind "
With the approach of war the Air Ministry identified a need for a long-range twin engined fighter...

Curtiss P-36 Mohawk, P-40 Tomahawk & Kittyhawk

Early in the war Westland undertook the modification of all Mohawk, Tomahawk and Kittyhawk fighter provided to Britain from the USA under the Lease-lend programme, responsible for adapting the aircraft to RAF standard.

Westland Built Spitfires And Seafires

Early in the war disaster struck the aircraft manufacturing war effort when the main Spitfire factory at Southampton was totally destroyed by bombing. Westland was already working as a sub-contractor for the Spitfire and was quickly brought on line as a full production unit, with its own group of small 'Shadow factories' in the local area (Somerton, South Petherton, Chard etc). The first Westland built spitfire flew in July 1941, and production continued as part of the company's main wartime activity.

Spitfire Westland subsequently became the main contractor for the modification of the Spitfire for use at sea, taking design responsibility for wing fold and arrester gear. Spitfire/Seafire production at Yeovil was as follows:

Spitfire Mk la, Vb & Vc: 685 aircraft.
Seafire MK llc, lll, XV & XVll: 2,115 aircraft.

Westland Built Fairey Barracuda

It was originally intended that Westland should build Barracudas in quantity, but as events transpired Spitfire and Seafire production took priority and only 18 aircraft were completed.
Welkin " Welkin "
As the war progressed, attacks from high altitude bombers became a major problem.
Wyvern TF MK 1 " Wyvern TF MK 1 "
The requirement for the Wyvern was placed in 1944...
Wyvern TF MK 2, T MK 3 and S MK 4 " Wyvern TF MK 2, T MK 3 & S MK 4 "
In view of the problems with the Eagle engine...

The Move To Helicopters

The end of the war meant that the large aircraft industry would have to adapt to peacetime needs. The board of Westland Aircraft decided that the future might lie with a totally different form of flying machine, the helicopter.

The first practical helicopters had appeared towards the end of the war in Germany and USA, one of the most successful American designers being Sikorsky. In 1946 Westland negotiated a long-term agreement to build Sikorsky designs under licence, but they also made the bold policy decision to specialise in helicopter designs for the future.

Work started with the Sikorsky S-51, which was subjected to some re-design to become the Dragonfly, flying for the first time in 1948, entering service with the Royal Navy and RAF by 1953. Success with the Dragonfly was repeated with other Sikorsky designs, and the firm rapidly evolved to become a helicopter manufacturer in its own right.

The introduction of helicopters into the Royal Navy was to transform Naval Aviation. The use of helicopters equipped with dipping sonar superseded fixed wing aircraft in the anti-submarine role while helicopters brought a whole new dimension to search and rescue.

It must not be assumed that Westland simply built off the shelf designs under licence. In all cases the Westland versions were subject to re-design and incorporated many improvements.

WS-51 Dragonfly " WS-51 Dragonfly "
Westland built version of the Sikorsky S-51...
WS-55 Whirlwind " WS-55 Whirlwind "
After the Dragonflies had entered service, Westland announced the agreement between Sikorsky...
Widgeon " Widgeon "
This represented Westland's first excursion into helicopter design...
WS-58 Wessex MK 1 " WS-58 Wessex MK 1 "
The adoption of the Sikorsky S-58 and its complete re-design, served to strengthen the Westland design team....
Westminster " Westminster "
The Westminster extended the Westland design organisation even further...
WS-55 Whirlwind Series 3, HAR 9 and HAR 10 " WS-55 Whirlwind Series 3, HAR 9 & HAR 10 "
The installation of a single Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft engine into the Whirlwind airframe...

Saunders-Roe Helicopters

In August 1959, Westland acquired the helicopter and hovercraft interests of Saunders-Roe, situated at Eastleigh and Cowes, and which had previously taken over the Cierva Autogyro Company in 1951.

At the time of the Westland takeover, two helicopter projects were in progress, namely the Skeeter and the P-531, which was subsequently developed to become the Scout and Wasp.

Skeeter " Skeeter "
With the acquisition of Saunders-Roe Westland became responsible for the Skeeter...
Saunders-Roe P. 531-1 " Saunders-Roe P. 531-1 "
Saunders-Roe were fully engaged upon the development of the P-531 project at the time of the Westland take over.

Rationalisation Of The British Aircraft Industry 1960

In 1960 the British aircraft industry underwent a major re-organisation. There were at the time over twenty aircraft manufacturers, all of which were competing for a few orders. The government of the time made it clear that it could no longer support this situation.

The result was a period of re-organisation where many of the companies combined to form only two major aircraft manufacturing groups. Because of its success in the helicopter business, Westland were well placed to take the lead for rotary winged aircraft, there followed a period when Westland acquired Bristol Helicopters, Fairey Aviation and Saunders-Roe to become Westland Helicopters, Britain's sole helicopter company with full order books for Wessex, Scout and Wasp.


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