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A Royal Air Force Whirlwind HAR.10
Role helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Westland Aircraft
First flight August 1953
Introduction 1954
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Number built 400
Developed from Sikorsky H-19

The Westland Whirlwind helicopter was a British licence-built version of the U.S. Sikorsky S-55/H-19 Chickasaw. It primarily served with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in anti-submarine and search and rescue roles.

Design and development

In 1950, Westland Aircraft, already building the American Sikorsky S-51 under license as the Westland Dragonfly, purchased the rights to manufacture and sell Sikorsky's larger Sikorsky S-55 helicopter. While a Sikorsky-built pattern aircraft was flown by Westland in June 1951, converting the design to meet British standards (including the provision of a revised main-rotor gearbox), was time-consuming,[1] and the first prototype British aircraft, registered G-AMJT, powered by the 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-40 Wasp did not fly until August 1953.[2] This was followed by ten Whirlwind HAR.1s, which entered service shortly afterwards. They served in non-combat roles, including search and rescue and communications functions. The HAR.3 had a larger 700 hp Wright R-1300-3 Cyclone 7 engine.

The performance of early versions was limited by the power of the American Wasp or Cyclone engines, and in 1955, the HAR.5, powered by the more powerful British power plant, the Alvis Leonides Major, flew for the first time.[3] This was followed by the similarly powered HAS.7, which became the first British helicopter designed for anti-submarine warfare in the front-line when it entered service in 1957. It could either be equipped with a dipping Sonar for submarine detection or carry a torpedo, but could not carry both simultaneously, so sonar equipped "Hunters" were used to direct torpedo armed "Killers".[4] The HAS.7 was powered by a 750 hp (560 kW) Alvis Leonides Major 755/1 radial engine. It had a hovering ceiling at 9,400 ft (2,900 m) and a range of 334 miles at 86 mph.

Later in their lives, some HAS.7s were converted to use the Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft engine, as the HAR.9.

After entering service with the Royal Navy, the Whirlwind came to be used by the British Army and Royal Air Force. More than 400 Whirlwinds were built, of which nearly 100 were exported to foreign customers. The French Navy received 37 Whirlwind HAR.2 between 1954 and 1957.[5]


Westland Whirlwind Series 1 demonstrator fitted with P&W R-1340 in 1955

Westland Whirlwind of the Royal Navy

File:Shah of Iran at West Burton.jpg

The Shah of Iran visits West Burton Power Station in a Westland Whirlwhind XR487 HCC.12 of The Queen's Flight escorted by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire in 1965

WS-55 Series 1
44 built; American engines (Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340-40), transport helicopters for military and civilian use
WS-55 Series 2
19 built; Alvis engines (Alvis Leonides Major 755), civilian use
WS-55 Series 3
5 built; Gnome turboshaft (Bristol Siddeley Gnome 101), civilian use
10 built; RN service; Search and rescue
33 built; RAF service from 1955
25 built; RN service; Wright Cyclone engine
24 built; Improved HAR.2 for hot and high conditions, RAF service
7 built; Alvis Leonides Major engine and a 3 degree droop of the tail boom for increased main rotor clearance; RN service
120 built; RN anti-submarine duties - 1 torpedo; 12 used as Royal Marine transports
2 built; Royal Flight transport, VVIP
6 conversions of HAS.7 with a Bristol Siddeley Gnome gas turbine replacing the Leonides Major engine, RN service
RAF service
68 built; powered by a Bristol Siddeley Gnome gas turbine, RAF service, transport and air-sea rescue
2 built; Royal Flight,

The model numbers for the US-built evaluation models were

10 built; rescue. Equivalent to US Marine HRS-2.[6]
15 built; anti-submarine. Equivalent to HO4S-3.[6]


 United Kingdom


Over 69[8] aircraft remain in private ownership, dumped or in museums including the RAF Museum and the Fleet Air Arm Museum as well as being the current gate guardian at RAF Odiham.

  • Whirlwind HAR.10 XJ729/G-BVGE [Pictured At The Top] Was bought for scrap in 1992, restored to flight that year and flew regularly until its departure to Ireland in the late 90's. She was a regular airshow performer during the mid 90's including RIAT in 1995 - Currently owned by James Kelly in Ireland, her permit to fly expired late 2008 and was not renewed, according to the CAA website she was declared "No Flight" As of 16/12/2010 ending the career of the last airworthy civilian Whirlwind.
  • Whirlwind Series 3 G-APWN, Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England. Sometimes open for viewing.
  • Whirlwind HAR.10 XP345 At Aeroventure, South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum, Doncaster England owned by the Yorkshire Helicopter Preservation Group.
  • Whirlwind XG576 / CU-590 (cn WA71) Named "Princess Olivia". Ex Bristow Helicopters G-AYNP. Originally delivered to the Royal Navy as XG576 in 1955. At Alten (Buseck), Germany.
  • Whirlwind HAR.9 XL875 at Scone Airfield, Perth, Scotland.
  • Whirlwind HAR.9 XN258 At the North East Aircraft Museum, Restoration nearing completion as of October 2010.

Specifications (Whirlwind HAS.7)

Data from Westland Aircraft since 1915 [9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two pilots
  • Length: 41 ft 8½ in (12.72 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 0 in (16.15 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 7½ in (4.76 m)
  • Disc area: 2,205 ft² (205 m²)
  • Empty weight: 5,993 lb (2,724 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 7,800 lb (3,538 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Alvis Leonides Major 755 14-cylinder two-row radial, 750 hp (559 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 109 mph (95 knots, 175 km/h)
  • Range: 334 miles [10] (290 NM, 534 km)
  • Service ceiling: 13,000 ft (3,960 m)
  • Rate of climb: 910 ft/min (4.6 m/s)
  • Disc loading: 3.5 lb/ft² (17.3 kg/m²)
  • Power/mass: 0.01 hp/lb (0.16 kW/kg)


  • 1x Mark 30 or Mark 44 torpedo or Depth charges (carried in place of dipping sonar)
  • See also


    1. James 1991, pp.320—321.
    2. James 1991, p.322.
    3. James 1991, p.329.
    4. James 1991, p.330.
    5. 5.0 5.1 James 1991, p. 336.
    6. 6.0 6.1 Thetford 1978, p.423.
    7. 7.0 7.1 James 1991, p. 333.
    8. Demobbed Aircraft - Westland Whirlwind
    9. James 1991, pp.336—338.
    10. Thetford 1978, p.352.
    • James, Derek M. Westland Aircraft since 1915. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1991. ISBN 0-85177-847-X.
    • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft since 1912. London:Putnam, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.

    External links

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