It is necessary when visiting the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology to go on the right day.
In a small and cramped aviation section is a fascinating bit of aeronautical history, the first and only twin rotor helicopter flown by the British Army. This is the Bristol 192 , (XG454)*** the final successor from a line of prototypes started before Westland took over the helicopter division of Bristol aircraft.
The Bristol 192 (AKA Bristol Belvedere) was the production version of Model 191 for RAF use with two cabin windows only, starboard cargo hatch, cargo hoist beneath fuselage, large anhedralled tailplane and powered by two 1465shp Napier Gazelle turboshafts. The first flew nearly 50 years ago on (Prot. XG447 FF) 5 Jul. 1958. 26 built were eventually built. (XG447 was broken up at Boscombe Down on 7th August 1966)
As the Westland Belvedere this entered service with the Royal Air Force, though this was only after the 191 and 193 had been cancelled by the RAF and Royal Canadian Air Force respectively. The 192 was powered by two Napier Gazelle Series 2 engines derated to 920shp.
As the 192C it was tested by BEA and offered its 24 passengers a unique high-speed service between London and Paris.
On May 30, 1961, C T D Hosegood flew from city centre London to Paris in 1 hour 41 min 28 sec and on June 2, 1961, from Paris to London in 1 hour 40 mm 55 sec. This is the equivalent of 202.32km/h outwards and 203.51 km/h on the return flight.
Technical data for Bristol "Belvedere" HC.1
Engine: 2 x Napier Gazelle N.Ga.2 turboshafts, rated at 1092KW, rotor diameter: 14.91m, length with rotors turning: 27.36m, height: 5.26m, max take-off weight: 9072kg, empty weight: 5277kg, max cruising speed: 222km/h, service ceiling: 7,000 m, range with 2722kg payload (3 tonnes !) : 720 km . It could carry (and did) 18 fully equipped troops with a total load capacity of 6,000 lb. The two rotors were synchronised through a shaft allowing the aircraft to operate through only one engine in the event of an emergency - a world first.
This aircraft was not without problems, but it saw service in many theatres and 66 Sqn, RAF Seletar, Singapore operated the last operational Belvedere Sqn from 1967 to its disbandment in 1969. This aircraft was a very difficult aircraft both to maintain and to fly, but proved to be very successfull with the army in Malaya and supported the army on all there major excercises.This was the only heavy lift helicopter in service at that time and 66Sqn operated 12 aircraft until their final disbandment.
It is interesting to comopare with the Boeing CH-47A Chinook which entered service in Vietnam with the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division in late 1965. The CH-47B was the standard troop transport used by the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam.
Current Chinooks can carry 28,000 lbs of cargo = 13,600 Kg with a cruise speed of 220KM/hr and a service ceiling of 5640 m and range of 700 km.
Another opportunity for the post war British aircraft industry squandered.
***XG454 is the seventh pre-production Belvedere, and was built at Weston-super-Mare in July 1960. It entered service with the Belvedere Trials Unit (BTU) at Odiham on 17th October 1960, but suffered a category 3 flying accident on 22 November. Repairs were completed at 71 Maintenance Unit by March 1961, but on 30 August ‘XG454' crashed a second time. This was during a practice flight for the SBAC Farnborough Air Show. Damage was classed as category 5, which meant that the Belvedere was considered irreparable. As a result ‘XG454' was sent to the Army Air Training and Development Centre, at Old Sarum, to be used as an instructional airframe.
On 15 October 1964, however, it was decided that ‘XG454' should be returned to Weston-super-Mare for rebuilding prior to joining the Ministry of Technology’s trials fleet.
In 1968, ‘XG454' was moved to RAF Abingdon to form part of the RAF’s 50th anniversary aircraft display, after which it was moved to Henlow for storage. On 4 November 1982, ‘XG454' was moved to Manchester .
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