29-Mar-2021 Source: Leonardo
As the Lynx helicopter celebrates 50 years since its maiden flight, one family celebrates over 100 years of links to Leonardo in Yeovil.
In 1915, the Westland Aircraft Works was founded as a division of Petters, in response to government orders for the construction under initial licence of 12 Short Type 184 seaplanes. It was only a few years later in the 1920s, when Percy Wilson-Chalon joined Westland.
Percy’s son Peter followed in his father’s footsteps and began his apprenticeship at Westland’s in 1955. After completing qualifications in mechanical and electrical engineering, it was in 1969, after three years in the Flight Test Department, the family’s links to the Lynx really began.
Back then, the aircraft was known as the WG13, and Peter’s job was to work on the rotor rig at RNAS Yeovilton. It was in the early 1970s that Peter led the Naval development programme, which included ship trials, avionics development, cold trials and improvements to performance and engineering. On 21 March 1971, the Lynx took to the skies for the first time.
Peter said, “I believe one of the great features of the Lynx which has carried over to the Wildcat is its ship operating capability in extreme weather and sea conditions.”
In the 1990s, Peter’s son Louis was flying the Lynx as a Helicopter Pilot for the Royal Navy. Louis was flying the Yeovil-built aircraft, which his father had flight engineered, and his 1,000th flight hour was achieved from the airfield in Yeovil on-board a Lynx Mk3. It was in 2011 that Louis became Commanding Officer of 815 Squadron, the front-line Lynx Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton. Under Louis’s leadership were around 400 personnel and 25 Royal Navy Lynx aircraft, one of the largest helicopter Squadron’s in the world at the time.
“What I liked about flying the Lynx was its performance and agility – it had the tendency to give you just that little bit more, just when you needed it,” Louis commented.
After retiring from the Royal Navy, Louis joined Leonardo in Yeovil in 2016 as a Military Marketing Manager.
The next-generation of Wilson-Chalon to enter the Leonardo gates on Lysander Road was Louis’s nephew, Eddie in 2016. Eddie started on Leonardo’s graduate programme. Leonardo’s award-winning graduate programme develops promising young graduates into engineers and business professionals of the future.
Eddie joined the Lynx Systems Engineering Department, which works on the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) AW159 Wildcat programme. He is involved with developing and running system tests.
Eddie shared: “I love working on the latest evolution of the popular Lynx multirole naval helicopter, the AW159 with its advanced situational awareness capabilities and fully integrated avionics, it truly is a fantastic machine.”
Leonardo is the only British company to design and manufacture helicopters on-shore. The Company is part of Somerset’s DNA and with many families throughout the region working on-site in Yeovil, and helicopters is very much in their blood.