The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre (Queensland) has secured ownership of Westland Wessex Mk31B ex Royal Australian Navy N7-214, WA214 as part of a tender arrangement with the Commonwealth of Australia. Warbirds Online was on hand to assist with the recovery and transport of the new acquisition to Caboolture Qld. AAHC (Qld) members and volunteers, along with the support of RAAF and Navy personnel dismantled the aircraft at Williamtown NSW RAAF base last week in preparation for the move to the AAHC (Qld) base at Caboolture Qld.
The aircraft is a longtime resident at Williamtown, having served as a training aid since retirement from service on 31 December 1989. Thankfully the aircraft has been located in a hangar most of its training aid life and is thus dusty and dirty, but complete and sound.
Work commenced on moving the aircraft on 16th July 2017 with a survey of the aircraft and then implementing the dismantling plan which included removing the main rotor blades, removal of tail rotor, doppler antenna from fuselage belly, port and starboard HF antenna stand-offs from tail cone and fuselage sides, antenna cabling, both main wheels and then the landing gear once the transport dollies were placed in situ to support the aircraft. Then the engine nose-cone was removed and the tail rotor folded back onto the fuselage.
The large Helicopter was then lifted onto a flatbed semi-trailer and securely tied down for the long drive back to Caboolture, a distance of 800 plus kilometers. All of the other components were packed into the fuselage or onto the AAHC Qld trailer for the trip home to Queensland which commenced on Friday 21 July 2017.
The long haul relocation was uneventful and she arrived at her new home safe and sound. Volunteers and members immediately began work to quickly reassemble her main components upon arrival at Caboolture.
It is planned to restore the aircraft to pristine static condition and display her alongside the fellow Vietnam era DHC4 Caribou A4-228 and the airworthy Cessna Birdog O-1 to represent this era of Australian Military Aviation.
History of Westland Wessex Mk31B,ex Royal Australian Navy N7-214, WA214
This aircraft was ordered as part of a 27 aircraft order with Westland of the UK in 1963 as an Mk 31A, generally similar to Mk 1, but with a 1,540shp Gazelle Mk 162 engine. Ordered for the Royal Australian Navy for anti-submarine duties and served for 26 years, operating with RAN FAA Squadrons 723, 725, 816 and 817 Squadrons, on HMAS Melbourne, Sydney, Stalwart, Tobruk and Success and also with Australian Army in support roles.
N7-214 was built at the Westland plant at Yeovil, Somerset, United Kingdom as an Mk31A and was later converted to Mk31B standard with uprated engine and other updates. The aircraft first flew on 18/02/63 and served with distinction in the RAN even spending time in Vietnam on several occasions on HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Sydney supporting the Australian Army. The aircraft survived several incidents in service including an accident on 19/11/74. N7-214 was part of a 4 ship fly-past of the type at HMAS Albatross, Jervis Bay NSW in 1989 at the retirement of the type from RAN service and was then transported to the RAAF base at Williamtown NSW and spent a fairly quiet time in retirement until 2016 when it was put up for disposal and subsequently awarded to AAHC Qld.
It is planned to restore the aircraft to pristine static condition and display her alongside the fellow Vietnam era DHC4 Caribou A4-228 and the airworthy Cessna O-1 Bird Dog to represent this era of Australian Military Aviation.
Channel 10 News provided coverage of the Wessex move.
Warbirds Online will continue to report on the restoration of this aircraft.
© John Parker 2017