The world’s last flying ‘Bristol 171 Sycamore’ helicopter will return home to Weston-superMare this month when it flies to the Helicopter Museum; 60 years after it was built. The historic aircraft land at the museum on Monday 11 June and be based in its Duke of Edinburgh Hangar until Sunday 24 June. It will be the UK’s first Sycamore flight in 46 years.
Sycamores have the distinction of being the first British helicopter to receive a certificate of airworthiness and also as being the first British-deigned helicopter to serve with the Royal Air Force. The aircraft were built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, firstly at its Filton factory and then from 1955-59 at its Oldmixon factory after all helicopter design and manufacturing was moved to Weston-super-Mare.
Bristol 171 Sycamore XG545/OE-XSY is now the only airworthy example in the world and made its first flight from the historic Weston Airfield on the 3 February 1958, before being delivered to the West German Navy in VIP configuration and later transferring to the German Air Force. After retirement the aircraft, now privately owned, was moved to Switzerland where it was repainted in RAF colours in 1988 and then eventually sold to the Flying Bulls display team based in Austria 18 years later. By this time the aircraft required an extensive overhaul and with technical assistance from the Helicopter Museum, including the supply of archived maintenance manuals, the Sycamore flew again in July 2013.
When the aircraft arrives at the museum it will be over 60 years since it left Weston-superMare for Germany and incredibly the first Sycamore flight in the UK since 1972. It is visiting the UK to appear as a grounded, static display at several air shows, but its arrival at the museum will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the aircraft actually in flight.
The Helicopter Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of rotorcraft including two other Bristol Sycamores, one of which (XL829) was the last to be delivered to the RAF.
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