The Helicopter Museum site at Weston Airport has been recognised by the American Helicopter Society International as one of two 2018 recipients of its Vertical Flight Heritage Sites award programme, recognised for its historical significance. Weston airport shares the honour with the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace in Atlanta, Georgia.
Weston-super-Mare has been involved in vertical flight since the 1930s when Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus visited the town with aircraft including a Cierva C-30A Autogyro. Then, in 1945 the Bristol Aeroplane Company set up an embryo helicopter design office headed up by chief designer Raoul Hafner at Elborough, close to the airport, before later relocating all helicopter design and manufacturing from Filton to Weston Airport in 1955.
Thereafter the Weston factory was responsible for production of the Sycamore helicopter until 1959 and development of the company’s tandem-rotor Belvedere, which first flew at the airfield in July 1958 and continued in production until the late 1960s. Meanwhile the factory became the Weston division of Westland Helicopters in 1960 and the airfield saw the flight testing of Wasp, Gazelle, Puma, Lynx, Sea King and Merlin helicopters following manufacturing and overhaul contracts until the division’s final closure in 2002.
Today the Helicopter Museum which officially opened on the airfield as a volunteer-run registered charity in 1989, keeps the heritage of the site alive with examples of the Weston-built aircraft in its collection and a comprehensive archive of the airfield’s rotary-wing connections.
The area of original airfield preserved by the museum will host the ‘World at War’ living history weekend on 7th & 8th April. The annual event sees military re-enactors and historic vehicles bring the land surrounding the WW2 era control tower and pilots block to life with special guests including Invictus Games athletes and the last surviving Dambuster, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson.
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