Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 XJ729 – G-BVGE
The world’s only airworthy Westland Whirlwind!
Built originally to HAR.2 standard, XJ729 was first flown from Westland’s Yeovil factory on 18th January 1956 and, by March of the same year, she was on strength with No. 22 Search and Rescue Squadron at RAF St. Mawgan. Regularly patrolling the holiday beaches of Devon and Cornwall, it is no wonder that these highly visible helicopters became some of the most instantly recognisable and best loved aircraft in RAF service, irrespective of the fact that they also helped to save countless lives throughout their service life. In 1961 she went back to Westland Helicopters for upgrade to HAR.10 standard, before returning to St. Mawgan in March 1962, to continue her work. During an extensive service life, she also spent time at RAF Leconfield, RAF Leuchars, RAF Coltishall and RAF Chivenor, before ending her career at the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley, on Anglesey.
Following withdrawal from service, she was sent to RAF Finningley, where she served as an instructional airframe and began to deteriorate from this point. Left outside and open to the elements, she was in a sorry state and was subsequently sold for scrap – a sad end for an aircraft that spent her life helping to save people from perilous situations. Thankfully, she was rescued from the scrapman and an extensive period of restoration began, culminating in her triumphant static appearance at the 1995 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. Her more recent history was very much associated with Ireland – a businessman from Mullingar bought the aircraft and operated her regularly at Airshows and public events, until her Certificate of Airworthiness expired in 2007. From this date, little was heard about the aircraft and she appeared to drop off the historic aviation radar. It was only in late 2013 that news began to circulate regarding Whirlwind XJ729, as a UK based businessman purchased the aircraft and brought her back to England. Following extensive work, and much investment, XJ729 was granted a Certificate of Airworthiness at the end of November 2013 – she was back!
Whirlwind HAR Mk 10 XJ729/G-BVGE is now a purely civilian aircraft, has recently been refurbished (to be the lightest Whirlwind yet) and painted yellow, the colour she wore when flown by 22 Squadron.
This Helicopter is owned and operated by Mr Andrew Whitehouse.
Whilst based at RAF Chivenor, Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 XJ729 was tasked with the following during February and July 1978:
19 Feb Take waterboard engineers to Okehampton. Task not completed due to weather.
19 Feb Uplift of 28 people from A361 at South Molton
19 Feb 3 renal patients to Exeter. Refuelled and doctor and patient lifted to Barnstaple Hospital
20 Feb Food drop at Chittlehampton and Davidstow. Bad weather made latter drop impossible.
20 Feb Medevac 2 pregnancies – one to Honiton and one to Exeter. Aircraft refueled at Exeter.
20 Feb Deliver urgent drugs to West Anstey.
20 Feb Food and paraffin drops to local villages
21 Feb Drug drop to Coldridge and Riddiford. Task not completed due to weather.
21 Feb Matron and drugs lifted from Barnstaple to Lynton. Patient with fracture taken to Barnstaple Hospital
21 Feb Drugs to Challacombe and food to Shirwell
21 Feb Food drops for Alverdiscott and Atherington. Task not completed due to weather.
21 Feb Bread delivered to Parracombe, Lynton and Brendon.
22 Feb Take pregnant woman and injured girl to Barnstaple Hospital. Fodder drops in South Molton area.
22 Feb Return doctor and girl to Witheridge. Urgent drugs to Dulverton.
22 Feb Milk supplies to Brendon. Fodder drops at Twitchen and Girt.
22 Feb Fodder drop at Narr. Task cancelled while on route.
22 Feb 6 food drops at local locations. 2 people lifted from Hackenford and Torrington.
22 Feb Fodder drops in Dolton area.
23 Feb Man with internal pains lifted from George Nympton to Barnstaple. After refuel, continued with food drops.
23 Feb Fodder drops in Holsworthy area.
23 Feb Medevac woman to South Molton Hospital. Deliver vet supplies. Medevac 2 people.
23 Feb Dog food delivery to Bishops Nympton.
24 Feb Search for man, eventually found with rest of family – required a fodder drop.
24 Feb Fodder drop from Prixford to Simonsbath. Airlift press into Lynton.
25 Feb Food drop at Chulmleigh.
27 Feb Fodder drop at Combe Martin
27 Feb Fodder drops in the North Molton area
15 Jul Teacher picked up and taken to injured boy. Both taken to Merthyr Tydfill.
16 Jul Search for missing boat. Recalled after boat returned to Watchet with engine trouble.
19 Jul Mother and daughter recovered from bottom of cliffs at Westward Ho. Injured couple taken to Barnstaple Hospital.
25 Jul Boy stranded on rocks at Welcombe Beach. Not required, boy recovered by helpers at scene.
25 Jul Report of upturned dinghy NW of Foreland Point. No dinghy found.
28 Jul People washed off rocks at Trebarwith Strand. 3 people lifted and taken to Bude Stratton.