Tag Archives: AgustaWestland

9 October 1987

PP1, the first prototype of the EH101, ZF 641. (Paul Thallon)
PP1, the first prototype of the EH101, ZF 641. (Paul Thallon)

9 October 1987: Westland Helicopters Ltd. Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Eggington and Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W. Hague take PP1, the first EH 101 prototype, for its first flight at Yeovil, Somerset, United Kingdom. The helicopter had been completed 7 April 1987 and underwent months of ground testing.

A medium-lift helicopter, the EH 101 was a joint venture of Westland and Costruzioni Aeronautiche Giovanni Agusta S.p.A. of Italy, known then as European Helicopter Industries, or EHI, to produce a replacement for the Sikorsky S-61 Sea King, which both companies built under license. The Italian and British companies merged in July 2000 and are now known as AgustaWestland NV, with corporate headquarters in the Netherlands. After the merger of the two helicopter manufacturers, the EH 101 was redesignated AW101. It is also known as the Merlin.

Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant, a search and rescue variant of the AgustaWestland AW101. (Korona4Reaal via Wikipedia)
Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant 149902, a search and rescue variant of the AgustaWestland AW101. (Korona4Reel via Wikipedia)

Nine prototypes were built, four by Agusta at Vergiate, Italy, and five by Westland at Yeovil. During testing, Agusta-built PP2 and Westland’s PP4 were destroyed.

PP1, the first prototype, was powered by three General Electric CT7-2A turboshaft engines which were rated at 1,625 shaft horsepower, each. In production, Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 engines are optional, as are the more powerful CT7-8s. Produced in both military and civil variants, the Merlin is used in search-and-rescue, anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, airborne early warning and utility configurations. Production began in 1995 and continues today.

The AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin is a single main rotor/tail rotor medium helicopter powered by three turboshaft engines. It is equipped with retractable tricycle landing gear. The helicopter may be flown by a single pilot and uses a digital flight control system. The actual flight crew is dependent on aircraft configuration and mission.

The five blade composite main rotor has a diameter of 61 feet, 0 inches (18.593 meters) and turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right side.) The blades use a BERP feature that was pioneered on the Westland Lynx AH.1 Lynx, G-LYNX, which Trevor Eddington flew to a world speed record, 11 August 1986. This allows higher speeds, greater gross weight and is quieter than a standard blade. A four blade tail rotor with a diameter of 13 feet, 1 inch (3.962 meters) is positioned on the left side of the tail boom in pusher configuration. It rotates clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. The tail rotor pylon is inclined to the left.

PP.5 parked aboard HMS iron Duke. (Royal Navy)
PP5, the prototype  ASW variant parked aboard HMS Iron Duke (F234). (Royal Navy)

Overall length of the AW101 is 74 feet, 10 inches (22.809 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 64 feet, 1 inch (19.533 meters) long. Overall height of the helicopter is 18 feet, 7 inches (5.664 meters). Its empty weight is 20,018 pounds (9,080 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 34,392 pounds (15,600 kilograms).

The RTM322 engine was developed as a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Turboméca, but is now a Safran Helicopter Engines product. The RTM322 02/8 is a modular reverse-flow turboshaft engine with a 3-stage axial-flow, 1 stage centrifugal-flow compressor and 2-stage high-pressure, 2-stage power turbine. The output drive shaft turns 20,900 r.p.m. The RTM322 02/08 is rated at 2,000 shaft horsepower, and 2,270 shaft horsepower for takeoff. It has a One Engine Inoperative (OEI) rating of 2,472 shaft horsepower (30 minute limit). The engine is 3 feet, 10.1 inches (1.171 meters) long, 2 feet, 1.5 inches (0.648 meters) in diameter and weighs 503 pounds (228.2 kilograms).

The AW101’s cruise speed is 278 kilometers per hour (150 knots). The hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) is 3,307 meters (10,850 feet). In utility configuration, the Merlin carries fuel for 6 hours, 30 minutes of flight and has a maximum range of 1,363 kilometers (735 nautical miles).

John Trevor Egginton, Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
John Trevor Eggington, Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Trevor Eggington retired from Westland in 1988 and Colin Hague became the company’s chief test pilot. In 2003, Hague was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent (OBE) Order of the British Empire for his contributions to aviation.

Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W.Hague, with the first prototype EH101, PP1. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Deputy Chief Test Pilot Colin W. Hague, with the first prototype EH101, PP1. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Since 2010, PP1 has been used as an instructional airframe for maintenance personnel at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, UK.

ZF641, the first prototype of the EH101 (AW101) Merlin, at RNAS Culdrose, 2010. (dyvroeth)
ZF 641, the first prototype of the EH 101 (AW101) Merlin, at RNAS Culdrose, 2010. (dyvroeth)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 August 1986

John Trevor Egginton, Chief Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight test Engineers)
John Trevor Egginton, Chief Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

11 August 1986: A modified factory demonstration Westland Lynx AH.1 helicopter, civil registration G-LYNX, piloted by Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Egginton and Flight Test Engineer Derek J. Clews, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute Record for Speed for helicopters over a straight 15/25 km course with an average speed of 400.87 kilometers per hour (249.09 miles per hour) over a measured 15 kilometer (9.32 miles) course near Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Southwest England.¹ ²

The helicopter was equipped with experimental BERP main rotor blades and two Rolls Royce Gem 60 turboshaft engines with digital electronic fuel control and water-methanol injection, producing 1,345 shaft horsepower, each. The engines’ exhausts were modified to provide 600 pounds of thrust. The horizontal tail plane and vertical fins from a Westland WG.30 were used to increase longitudinal stability and unload the tail rotor. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, items such as steps, antennas and windshield wipers were removed.

Westland WG.13 Lynx G-LYNX, c/n 102.

During the speed runs, the main rotor blade tips reached a speed of 0.97 Mach.

Four passes over the course were made at an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters). The results of the two best successive passes were averaged. This set both a record for helicopters in the 3,000 to 4,500 kilogram weight class, and the absolute record for helicopters in general. Thirty-one years later, these official speed records still stand.

Another Westland AH.1 Lynx, flown by then Westland Chief Pilot Leonard Roy Moxham and Michael Ball, had set two FAI World Records for Speed, 20 and 22 June 1972. Flying over a straight 15/25 kilometer course, the Lynx averaged 321.74 kilometers per hour (199.92 miles per hour).³ Two days later, the Lynx flew a closed 100 kilometer circuit at an average speed of 318.50 kilometers per hour (197.91 miles per hour).⁴ Both of these records were for helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class.

Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World's Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)
Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World’s Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)

Westland WG.13 c/n 102 made its first flight in May 1979. After setting the speed record, G-LYNX was used as a demonstrator and as a test platform, before finally being retired in 1992. Beginning in 2007, AgustaWestland restored the Lynx to its speed record configuration, withe more than 25,000 man hours expended on the project. G-LYNX was unveiled on 11 August 2011, the 25th anniversary of the world record flight. Today, it is on display at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, South West England.

In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. egginton is seated in the helicopter's pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)
In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. Egginton is seated in the World Record helicopter’s pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)

¹ FAI Record File Number 1842 (Helicopters with takeoff weight 3,000–4,000 kg)

² FAI Record File Number 1843 (Helicopters, General) [Absolute Record]

³ FAI Record File Number 1826

⁴ FAI Record File Number 1853

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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