A veteran Wessex helicopter has been given pride of place after returning home 48 years on.
Almost half a century after being built at Westland’s factory in Yeovil, a fully restored Wessex helicopter now proudly guards the gate at the Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton.
The Westland Wessex utility, marked 5 XT 458, first flew with the Navy in June 1965, a year after construction. In 1982, it went on to spend six years as part of a search and rescue squadron.
Following this stint, the XT 458 was transferred to HMS Daedalus at Lee on Solent, where she was used by the Royal Navy for training purposes. Budding air engineers honed their skills by prodding and probing the aircraft.
Chief Petty Officer Aircrewman John Fagan, who flew on the XT 458 as an aircrewman, said: “It was great working in the Wessex 5 aircraft on search and rescue missions around the south coast of England and Channel Islands.
“It’s great to see the old girl looking so good and given pride of place front and centre at Yeovilton.”
The helicopter has been restored to its original green paint job from 1974-76 and returned to the West Country, to stand as a gate guard at RNAS Yeovilton.
Wessex helicopters first entered service with the Royal Navy in 1960. The aircraft were adaptable and carried out a variety of important tasks before they were retired in 1988.
The Wessex was originally used as a troop carrier for the Royal Marines, along with transporting loads of equipment from ship to shore. Its agility and ability to land on uneven terrain made it perfectly suited for search and rescue missions.
The helicopters were also used during the Falklands War, but following the end of the conflict in 1982, they were replaced by Sea Kings and were transferred to the Naval Search and Rescue squadron at Portland, Dorset.
Commander Rick Fox, who flew a Wessex in the Falkland War, said: “The Wessex 5 was built to withstand landing on rough and hostile terrain and was immensely powerful.
“There is little doubt that, for a pilot, the Wessex 5 was an absolute pleasure to fly.
“You most felt like you were in control of a powerful stallion that required respect.”