The Westland Wessex was developed from the American Sikorsky S58 by replacing the original piston engine with a British-developed turboshaft engine. The first flight was in June 1958. Approximately 380 were built. They were used in the anti-submarine role, using dipping sonar and torpedoes or depth charges. They also served as commando and assault transport, VVIP transport and, probably their most visible use, as a search-and-rescue helicopter. In the VVIP role, 2 helicopters were converted, and painted bright red, for use by the Royal Flight. They were sometimes flown by Prince Philip or Prince Charles (as both are qualified Wessex pilots) when on royal trips.
The Wessex was used by the RAF, Royal Navy, Australian Navy, Iraq and Uruguay, and also by Bristow Helicopters to support the north sea oil rigs. They were in service from 1961 to 2003. There are over 30 preserved Wessex’s worldwide including one which has been restored to fly, making its first post-restoration flight in 2019.
Our Wessex, XT486, is a HU.5 variant, designed to carry 16 troops in the Commando role. It first flew in 1966 and was issued to 847 Sqn, Royal Navy. In May 1982 it went to take part in the Falklands conflict, arriving on June 6th. However, on 15th June, it suffered storm damage while aboard HMS Glamorgan and was returned home in July 1982 for repairs. In 1987 it became a ground instructional airframe at RAF Brize Norton. Then in 1996 it was assigned to the Altcar Range in Merseyside, surviving to be purchased by the museum in 2007.
The Wessex can be found displayed outside.