The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Westland Aircraft Works

Founded in 1915, as a separate branch of Petters, Ltd., of Yeovil, by Mr. R. A. Bruce, who was also managing director of Petters, Ltd., the Westland Aircraft Works, commenced, like so many other firms, by building aircraft under licence. It was not, however, very long before Mr. Bruce and his chief assistant designer, Mr. A. Davenport, commenced the design of original machines, and several of these had been produced since the Great War, such as the "Wagtail," the "Weasel," and the "Walrus." Several commercial types were also produced, of which one, the Westland Limousine six-seater, won the Air Ministry competition for Commercial Aeroplanes in 1920. Subsequently the firm was busily engaged on experimental work for the British Air Ministry, among the machines under construction being some of very unorthodox design.

The relationship between Agusta and Westland evolved for more than 20 years through collaboration on the development and production of the 16-ton multi-role EH101. This association provided the platform which enabled the two Companies to conclude a rapid and effective integration when Finmeccanica S.p.A. of Italy and GKN plc of the UK signed the agreement for the formation of a 50 : 50 joint venture company named AgustaWestland in 2001. In December, 2004 Finmeccanica acquired GKNs 50 per cent stake in AgustaWestland.

Westland had already entered an agreement with the Italian firm Agusta, to collaborate in the design, development and production of a new large helicopter to meet the requirement for a replacement for the prolific Sea King. In June 1980 the two companies formed a joint company, EH Industries, specifically to produce the EH101, a multi-role helicopter designed to meet naval, military utility and civil requirements.

In early 1984, the United Kingdom signed an agreement with Italy to jointly produce the EH-101 helicopter for military and civilian use. Westland Aircraft Ltd. of the United Kingdom and Construzioni Aeronauticbe Giovanni Augusta SPA of Italy will manufacture the aircraft. The British Government has pledged $82 million in launch aid for the venture and Italy contributed $74.2 million in launch aid. Money for the project came from each Government's defense fund and the firms' resources. The United Kingdom and Italy agreed initially to purchase 60 each of the helicopter.

The new helicopter, designated the EH.101 Merlin, first flew in October 1987, but did not enter production until the mid-1990s. It has a five-bladed main rotor, a retractable landing gear, and three engines, and serves in various roles such as a submarine hunter and a utility version. A civil version, for offshore oil rig use, can seat 30 passengers.

There followed an interesting turn of events whereby at the time when the firm's financial future had been in doubt, the Lynx took the World absolute speed record for helicopters (400.87kph / 249.1 mph) with the new composite rotor blades and the prototype EH101 flew for the first time.

The EH101 development program progressed well, and in 1991 the Ministry of Defence placed an order for 44 anti-submarine warfare aircraft designated EH101 Merlin HM Mk1. Following a competition, the prime contract was placed with a consortium led by the US company IBM, supported by Westland, in preference to a rival consortium led by British Aerospace and GEC Marconi. The need for the competition and the involvement of IBM as Westland's partner was because neither Westland or EHI were in a position to satisfy the MoD requirement that the prime contractor must have sufficient resources to underwrite the value of the whole 1.5 billion contract.

The engineering company GKN had been a major shareholder in the Westland Group since 1987 and was one of the Group's strongest supporters. Sikorsky's parent company, United Technologies, was the other significant shareholder and in 1994 it decided to sell its holding. GKN bought the UTC shares and launched a successful take-over bid for Westland.

Re-named GKN Westland Helicopters in 1995, the substantial financial muscle of GKN enabled the company to bid successfully as prime contractor for the 600 million Support Helicopter contract for the RAF (Merlin HC Mk 3), and the 2 billion Attack Helicopter contract for the Army Air Corps (WAH-64 Apache).

In 1998 GKN and Finnemeccanica announced that they were starting negotiations to create a joint venture company by combining their respective helicopter companies, Westland and Agusta. Those negotiations were successfully concluded in July 2000. The company AgustaWestland, will be the second largest helicopter company in the world, with a turnover of more than US$2 Billion and a workforce of some 10,000 people.

By retaining the name Westland, the new company is perpetuating the proud heritage that has been associated with that name since Sir Ernest Petter made his first approach to the admiralty in 1915.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 09-05-2013 17:37:40 ZULU