Westland Aircraft

Westland Aircraft was a British aircraft manufacturer located in Yeovil, Somerset. Formed as a separate company by separation from Petters Limited just before the start of the World War II, Westland had been building aircraft since 1915. During the war the company produced a number of generally unsuccessful designs, but their Lysander would serve as an important liaison aircraft with the Royal Air Force. After the war the company focused on helicopters, and was merged with several other British firms to create Westland Helicopters in 1961.

Westland Aircraft
SuccessorWestland Helicopters
Founded1915 as Westland Works
1935 as Westland Aircraft on separation from Petters Ltd
HeadquartersYeovil, Somerset, England
ProductsFixed- and rotary-wing aircraft



In 1915 the Westland Aircraft Works was founded as a division of Petters in response to government orders for the construction under licence of initially 12 Short Type 184 seaplanes, followed by 20 Short Admiralty Type 166. Orders for other aircraft followed during World War I, including the Sopwith 1½ Strutter, the de Havilland designed Airco DH.4, Airco DH.9 and Airco DH.9A and the Vickers Vimy. The name "Westland" was chosen by Mrs Petter as new land purchased as part of an expansion in 1913 at West Hendford which had been earmarked for a new foundry, but ended up becoming the centre for aircraft production.[1] As a result of the experience gained in manufacturing aircraft under licence, Westland began to design and build its own aircraft, starting with the Westland N.1B in 1917, which was followed in 1918 by the Wagtail and the Weasel.

Following the end of war, Westland produced the Limousine and Woodpigeon light aircraft for the civilian market, but most successful was the Wapiti close support aircraft. In 1935 Petters split its aircraft manufacturing from its aircraft engine concerns to form Westland Aircraft Limited, based in Yeovil, Somerset.

World War Two

Westland whirlwind
Westland Whirlwind heavy fighter

The Whirlwind was the UK's first cannon-armed fighter and faster than many other British aircraft at the time but was troubled by the inability of Rolls-Royce to produce the engines. The Lysander army co-operation aircraft was displaced for reconnaissance as too vulnerable but found favour for specialist missions into occupied Europe carrying agents. Westland tendered designs for new aircraft during the war but only the Welkin was accepted. The Welkin was a twin-engine high altitude design to intercept attempts by high-flying German bombers to attack Britain. When the threat never appeared production was limited.

For much of the war their factories were used to build Supermarine Spitfires, after the Supermarine factory in Southampton was bombed out of action during the Battle of Britain; indeed Westlands built more Spitfires than any other manufacturer. Westland would then go on to be the major designers of the Supermarine Seafire, a navalised conversion of the Spitfire.

Post-war success

The Westland Wyvern was a post-war design of carrier-based strike-fighter for the Fleet Air Arm serving up to 1958.

Post-war the company decided to get out of fixed-wing aircraft and concentrate solely on helicopters under a licensing agreement with Sikorsky. This upset W.E.W. Petter, the chief designer, who left to form a new aircraft division at English Electric that would go on to be very successful.[2]

Production started with the Sikorsky S-51 flying for the first time in 1948 and as the Westland-Sikorksy Dragonfly entering service with the Royal Navy and RAF from 1950. Westland developed an improved version the Widgeon which was not a great success. Success with the Dragonfly was repeated with the Sikorsky S-55 which became the Whirlwind, and a re-engined Sikorsky S-58 in both turboshaft and turbine engine powered designs as the Wessex.

In 1952 Westland decided on three helicopter designs for possible development:

  • The W-80 which was a 24-passenger short range medium lift helicopter with fixed landing gear and similar to the future Westland Commando in appearance.
  • The W-81, a high speed, streamlined 32-passenger helicopter, with retractable landing gear and a top speed of 150 miles per hour (240 km/h). Similar to many modern helicopters of today it had twin turbine engines mounted on the fuselage.
  • The W-85. A very large helicopter that could lift 15 tons (100 soldiers or their equivalent) in the military version.[3] It was so big that jeeps and medium artillery could be parked side by side internally. Loading and unloading was to be accomplished through a clam shell door on the nose and a retractable ramp in the rear. Power would be from blade tip system, where at the ends of each of the three massive rotor blades was a streamlined pod, with two turbojet engines mounted in each pod.[4]

None of the three Westland helicopters, nor the even larger (200 ft (61 m) rotor diameter) W-90 suggested for development in 1952, advanced further than the paper study.[5] Westland did progress as a private venture a large space-frame cargo helicopter design using a Sikorksy rotor head - the Westland Westminster - but this was dropped later in favour of the government funded Fairey Rotodyne.

Forced mergers

From 1959 to 1961 the British government forced the consolidation of 20 or so British aviation firms into three larger groups with the threat of withheld contracts and the lure of project funding. While the majority of fixed-wing aircraft design and construction lie in the British Aircraft Corporation and the Hawker Siddeley Group the helicopter divisions of Bristol, Fairey and Saunders-Roe (with their hovercraft) were merged with Westland to form Westland Helicopters in 1961.


Fixed-wing aircraft



  • Westland-Lepere Autogiro
  • license holder for hovercraft trademark original held by Saunders-Roe


Normalair was created to continue the development and marketing of the pressure relief valves used in the Welkin project.

See also


  1. ^ Berryman, David (2006). Somerset airfields in the Second World War. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 180. ISBN 1-85306-864-0.
  2. ^ He would later leave EE and join Folland to design the Gnat
  3. ^ "Helicopter Projects" Flight 29 August 1952 p267
  4. ^ The World's Helicopters" Flight 1953 p116
  5. ^ "Helicopter Forecast from England" Popular Mechanics, March 1951, pp. 88-89.
  6. ^ The Westland Family Flight 1955


External links

British Hovercraft Corporation

British Hovercraft Corporation was the corporate entity created when the Saunders-Roe division of Westland Aircraft and Vickers Supermarine combined March 1966 with the intention of creating viable commercial hovercraft. Westland Aircraft held 65% of the shares, Vickers 25% and the National Research Development Corporation 10%.

None of the Vickers designs were 'taken forward', the existing production of the Saunders-Roe designs continued (SR.N5 Warden class and SR.N6 Winchester class) and the Saunders-Roe designed SR.N4 (Mountbatten class), was completed and entered service on the English Channel.

Only one new design was produced (1969) by the British Hovercraft Corporation, the BH.7 (Wellington class).

In 1970, Westland Aircraft acquired the shares of the other parties. In 1971 Cushioncraft was acquired from Britten-Norman. In 1984, the company was renamed Westland Aerospace – hovercraft design/manufacture had effectively ceased and the company was involved with the manufacture of composites for the aerospace industry.

The British Hovercraft Corporation was responsible for the largest Union Flag in the world. It was painted on the doors of their hangar on the seafront at East Cowes in 1977 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II.

Westland CL.20

The Westland CL.20 was a two-seat autogyro designed and built by Westland Aircraft between 1934 and 1938. One flying prototype and six airframes were built, which had control problems and insufficient lift. Before these problems could be solved the programme was abandoned and the prototype was scrapped in 1938.

Westland Dreadnought

The Westland Dreadnought was an experimental single-engined fixed-wing monoplane design for a mail plane created to test the aerodynamic wing and fuselage design ideas of Woyevodsky. It was designed and built by British aircraft manufacturer Westland Aircraft for the Air Ministry. Only a single aircraft was built and it crashed on its initial flight, badly injuring the test pilot.

Westland Helicopters

Westland Helicopters was a British aerospace company. Originally Westland Aircraft, the company focused on helicopters after the Second World War. It was amalgamated with several other British firms in 1960 and 1961. In 2000, it merged with Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta to form AgustaWestland, which in turn merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica in 2016.

Westland IV

The Westland IV and Westland Wessex were British high wing, three-engined light transport aircraft built by Westland Aircraft.

Westland Interceptor

The Westland Interceptor was a fighter developed by the British company Westland Aircraft to Air Ministry Specification F.20/27. When tested in 1929 and 1930, it showed unsatisfactory handling characteristics and was rejected by the RAF in favour of the Hawker Fury biplane fighter.

Westland Limousine

The Westland Limousine was a 1920s British single-engined four-seat light transport aircraft built by Westland Aircraft.

Westland N.1B

The Westland N.1B was a prototype British single-engined floatplane fighter aircraft of the First World War. The first aircraft to be designed by Westland Aircraft, it was a single-engined tractor biplane. Despite good performance, only two aircraft were built, the Royal Naval Air Service operating landplane fighters from ships instead.

Westland PV-3

The Westland PV-3 was a British two-seat torpedo bomber of the 1930s built by Westland Aircraft Works. The aircraft was a private venture development and based on the Westland Wapiti. It never entered production. The aircraft is best known as one of the first two to fly over Everest as part of the Houston-Mount Everest Flight Expedition.

Westland WS-51 Dragonfly

The Westland WS-51 Dragonfly helicopter was built by Westland Aircraft and was a licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-51.

Westland Walrus

The Westland Walrus was a British spotter/reconnaissance aircraft built by Westland Aircraft.

Westland Wapiti

The Westland Wapiti was a British two-seat general-purpose military single-engined biplane of the 1920s. It was designed and built by Westland Aircraft Works to replace the Airco DH.9A in Royal Air Force service.

First flying in 1927, the Wapiti entered service with the RAF in 1928, and remained in production until 1932, a total of 565 being built. It equipped twenty squadrons of the RAF, both overseas (particularly in India and Iraq) and at home, remaining in RAF service until 1940, also being used by the Air Forces of Australia, Canada, South Africa and India. It also formed the basis for the Westland Wallace which partly replaced the Wapiti in RAF use.

The Wapiti is named for the wapiti, also known as elk, one of the largest species of the deer family and one of the largest land mammals in North America and eastern Asia.

Westland Weasel

The Westland Weasel was a prototype British two-seat fighter/reconnaissance aircraft of the First World War. Designed to replace the Bristol Fighter, the Weasel was a single engined tractor biplane. Four prototypes were built, but no production followed owing to the failure of its original engine, although the prototypes were used as engine test beds for the successful Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar and Bristol Jupiter engines.

Westland Westminster

The Westland Westminster was a British helicopter of the 1950s from Westland Aircraft. A large cargo design, it was powered by two turboshaft engines driving a single, five-bladed rotor. Initially unclad, the all-metal airframe was later enclosed in a fabric covering. Designed and built as a private venture without government assistance, it was cancelled when Westland took over rival helicopter producers and their more advanced projects.

Westland Widgeon (fixed wing)

The Westland Widgeon was a British light aircraft of the 1920s. A single-engined parasol monoplane, the Widgeon was built in small numbers before Westland abandoned production in 1929.

Westland Widgeon (helicopter)

The Westland Widgeon was a helicopter developed by Westland Aircraft as a private venture improvement fn the Westland WS-51 Dragonfly.

Westland Woodpigeon

The Westland Woodpigeon was a British two-seat light biplane designed to compete in the 1924 Lympne light aircraft trials.

Westland Wyvern

The Westland Wyvern was a British single-seat carrier-based multi-role strike aircraft built by Westland Aircraft that served in the 1950s, seeing active service in the 1956 Suez Crisis. Production Wyverns were powered by a turboprop engine driving large and distinctive contra-rotating propellers, and could carry aerial torpedoes.

Westland Yeovil

The Westland Yeovil was a British biplane bomber designed and built by Westland Aircraft in 1923 to meet an Air Ministry Specification for a single-engined day bomber.

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