Westland Wessex HCC4 XV732 of the Queen’s Flight, as currently displayed at the RAF museum at Hendon. Limited edition of only 1,200 pieces.
In 1969, two Wessexes were ordered with specific modifications in mind, with the aim of VIP use, specifically with The Queen’s Flight. Prince Charles, Princess Anne and The Queen Mother were regular passengers, with Prince Philip even piloting the aircraft over the years. It wasn’t until August 1977 that Queen Elizabeth herself finally took her seat on board and took to the skies.
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 “Choctaw”, developed under license by Westland Aircraft (later Westland Helicopters), initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Wessex was built at Westland’s factory at Yeovil in Somerset.
The Wessex was first used by the RN, the RAF first used the helicopter in 1962, and did not finally retire until January 2003, being the main transport helicopter until the introduction of the Aérospatiale Puma. The bright yellow RAF machines used for air-sea or mountain rescue duties became especially famous and saved many lives.
The Navy pressed the development of the HAS.1 into the improved HAS.3, coming into service in 1967. It saw embarked service on the County class destroyers. The HAS.3 could be identified by a dorsal radome and strake extending behind the “hump”.
Wessex helicopters were also used by the Queen’s Flight of the RAF to transport VIPs including members of the British Royal Family, from 1969 to 1998. Those Royal helicopters were designated HCC.4 and were essentially similar to the HC.2 but with an upgraded interior, additional navigation equipment and enhanced maintenance programmes. A later version used by the Royal Marine Commandos was the HU.5.