Rich Pittman  VLNPhotography reports from the Agusta Westland Plant in Yeovil

100 Year Centenary Westland Airfield




 2015 marks the 100 Year Centenary of the Airfield at Westlands.

On July the 12th Agusta Westland held a Friends and Family Day.


Many of the buildings on site were open , including the flight shed and the AW101/189 and AW159 final assembly lines aswell other areas such as the transmissions Repair and Overhaul department and the Dynamic Composite Component so the families visiting got a real insight of the history and Day to Day goings on within the huge Agusta Westlad complex.


A wide range of westland Helicopters and Aircraft  were on show both static and in the air. 

From the Supermarine Spitfire and Sea Fire built at Westland in the 1940s through to Todays revolution Agusta Westland AW609 Tiltrotor. 


Where it all started

The Westland Aircraft Works were built due to the First World War and the need for naval aircraft. The first aircraft to be built at the Works was a Short 184 seaplane and left on January 1, 1916, by horse and cart. The fourth ever aircraft built at Westland, took part in the Battle of Jutland. It was piloted by Frederick Rutland from Weymouth ‘Rutland of Jutland’ and successfully reported by radio the movements of the German Fleet.


Several Westland Aircraft followed including the Westland Wapiti in 1927, Westand Dragonfly in 1948, Westland Whirlwind in 1952, Westland Scout  in 1960, Westland Sea King in 1969, Westland Lynx in 1971  and the EH ( AW) 101 in 1987. 


The last few Decades 

My Father started working at Westands in 1980. Its this connection why im interested in Aviation Today. Many Generations of the Pittman family have and still work at the Agusta Westland facility in Yeovil. Its this Westland facility and sub departments along with the nearby Naval Air Station at Yeovilton that keeps the Yeovil and surrounding area thriving.

I have witnessed in particular the EH101 Merlin progression from Pre Production testing right through to Today's exports.

Looking to the Future, Agusta Westland are starting to build the AW189 at Westland in Yeovil. 

This will be the 1st civil Aircraft to be built on site since 1987. 


Westland Helicopters my Portfolio 


Westland Scout 



Westland Scout  XT626 Arriving at the Dawlish Air Show 2006 


The Scout prototypes were G-APVL and G-APVM. The Westland-built, Nimbus powered, G-APVL (later XP166) was flown on 9 August 1959, followed by Gnome powered G-APVM (later XR493) on 3 May 1960. The first pre-production Scout AH.1 XP165 was flown at White Waltham on 4 August 1960.


Westland Wasp 



Westland Wasp XT737 HAS1 departs the Abingdon Air and Country Fair 2015 


Wasp: The Wasp was a naval small ship observation and anti-submarine helicopter developed from Saunders-Roe P.531.


Westland Sea King 



RAF HAR3 search and Rescue Sea king at RNAS Yeovilton on a test flight after maintenance 16th Oct 2008


The Sea King was another Westland built helicopter under licence production and further development of a Sikorsky design. The type is an Anti-submarine, search and rescue, troop transport and early warning helicopter adapted from the Sikorsky SH-3. A pattern aircraft, XV370, was imported from Sikorsky, followed by four aircraft in component form. XV370 was first flown from Avonmouth Docks on 8 September 1967, following its shipment from the USA.

Westland production began with XV642, first flown on 7 May 1969.


Some 328 examples of all marks have been built as well as for the UK, many for export customers that include Australia, Belgium, Egypt, Germany, India, Norway, Pakistan, and Qatar. 

Westland/ Aerospatiale     Lynx, Puma, Gazelle 


The "Blue Eagles" display Lynx  from Middle Wallop leaves Dawlish Airshow 17th August 2006


The 1970s saw a successful collaboration with the French on the Lynx, Puma and Gazelle helicopters, all of which were to enter UK service.

The Westland Lynx was developed as a highly manoeuvrable replacement for the Scout and Wasp.

 The Lynx was produced in collaboration with Aerospatiale (70% Westland, 30% Aerospatiale)


Export customers have included Brazil, Portugal, South Korea, West Germany, Nigeria, The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Norway, Qatar and Argentina.


The Westland Lynx demonstrator G-LYNX was used to break the world helicopter speed record on 11 August 1986, achieving a speed of 249.09 mph. This remarkable speed was achieved using BERP blades, Gem 60 engines, and reduced area rearward-facing exhausts to give a degree of residual jet thrust, which allowed the full thermodynamic performance of the engines to be exploited, without exceeding the main gearbox torque limits. The airframe was subjected to careful drag reduction measures, a larger low set tailplane was fitted and local strengthening of the tail cone was required.



Underslung load Training on Salisbury Plain 12th October 2009

 The Gazelle was developed from the Sud Aviation SA340.

Used in the military training, communications and observation role, UK aircraft were built by Westland as part of the Anglo-French helicopter agreement. 262 were built for all three of the UK Armed Services, with a limited number of civil machines. The main operator was the Army with 197 Gazelle AH.1.

A few Gazelle remain operational in the British Army Today. 



Puma "Black Peter" conducts slope training on Everleigh drop zone 27th April 2015


  The SA330 Puma medium transport helicopter was, designed by Sud Aviation / Aerospatiale. As part of the Anglo-French helicopter agreement, Westland built Puma components and assembled 48 aircraft for the RAF at Hayes. These aircraft were moved by road to Yeovil for flight testing. The first production Puma HC Mk 1 XW198 flew for the first time on 25 November 1970.


"Black Peter"


In 2014, 230 Squadron based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire painted a Puma HC2 in a special colour scheme to commemorate their 95th anniversary.
 ZJ955 was painted black and  a Far East Asia Command roundel and markings were applied, similar to a Shorts Sunderland named ‘Black Peter’ from the squadron’s past.


Agusta Westland AW101 



Algerian AW101  Westland Aerodrome April 2010

Please click on the AW101 above for a Photo Gallery of AW101 

The Merlin is a three engine anti-submarine and military and civil transport helicopter developed jointly with Agusta of Italy. The prototype EH101 first flew at Yeovil on 9 October 1987.

The first production Merlin ZH821 flew on 7 December 1995.

Living in Yeovil I have witnessed the development and production of the EH101.

The Merlin 1st entered service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

The Merlin has been exported Worldwide and can be seen on a Daily basis test flying over Yeovil. 


Westland Apache AH1 



"Gunship 54" conducts white out landings during the harsh winter of 2009


The company’s next production design is the Anglicised Boeing Apache

the WAH-64

With RTM322 engines and other adaptations, sixty-seven having been ordered on 13 July 1995 to meet the British Army attack helicopter requirement.


The first eight were initially flown at Mesa, Arizona, the remainder being assembled from kits by Westland. The first Boeing assembled aircraft was delivered in April 2000, with the first Westland assembled machine, ZJ172, being flown for the first time on 18 July 2000.




These Apaches entered service at Middle Wallop with 673SQN

I have witnessed many training sorties out on the Salisbury Plain Training Area

Front-line Wattisham Apaches from 3 and 4 Regiment working up to OP Herrick

In Afghanistan. 




AW189 is the 1st civilian Helicopter to be Built in Yeovil since 1987

Seen here on static Display at Air Day 2015


The AW189  is part of a family of AW Helicopter types including the AW169 and AW139

The family group all have a common design so maintainers and air crew can easily change from 1 type to another.

The AW189 has been designed for the off shore long range role. The Aircraft being built in Yeovil for Bristow will operate in the Search and Rescue capacity and replace the Sea kings in Royal Navy and Royal Air Force service at present. 



AW149 arriving at Agusta Westland 11th July 2015


The AW149 is a medium capacity military Helicopter.

This Helicopter can carry up to 18 troops or 6 stretchers. It can move equipment, be used in medical evacuation and rescue missions. It can also be armed with guns, rockets and anti tank missiles.

This Helicopter provides excellent payload and range capabilities. 

It has excellent performance and operating costs. 





With the Yeovil Hospital as a backrop the TiltRotor aw609 Lifts to display at 

Agusta Westlands 100 Year Centenary Family Day 12th July 2015 


On show at both Yeovilton Air Day 2015 and the Westland Centenary Family Day was the Agusta Westland AW609. It can fly take off in a short space like a helicopter but can fly twice as fast in conventional flight. The pressurised cabin can hold up to 9 People, the AW609 represents the next generation of civil rotor craft. 


I would like to thank all the Staff at Agusta Westland who donated there time to open the Factory and being so informative. Happy 100 Year Westlands!