The Vertical Flight Society (VFS) presented its 2018 Heritage Sites Award on 17th May at its 74th annual Forum in Phoenix, Arizona to the Helicopter Museum at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. The award was presented to museum volunteer Alan Norris by Michael Hirschberg, Executive Director of the VFS. Previously known as the American Helicopter Society, the VFS is the oldest technical society representing the helicopter and vertical flight industry, having been established in 1943.
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 Weston Aiport, before later relocating all helicopter design and manufacturing from Filton to the 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 history of the airfield’s rotary-wing connections.
In November this year, the museum will host a return visit by Michael Hirschberg to receive a permanent trophy to mark the award.
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