There’s no doubt that the Bristol Sycamore was hardly a great beauty along with its pod-like fuselage, skinny legs, and long pointed tail. Further, it was not the most stress-free machine to fly. But the Bristol Sycamore was one of the most crucial aircraft during the aviation history of RAN.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company shifted into helicopters towards the end of World War II. It was the time when Austrian Raoul Hafner decided to join the company. His advanced research into helicopters led to the Bristol Sycamore, the very first British-designed helicopter.
Take note that the first prototype of the Bristol Sycamore flew in 1947. Did you know different military forces used it across the globe for search and rescue, communications, and even VIP transport?
Orders and Deliveries
The Bristol Sycamore was the first all-British-built helicopter to fly, making its first flight in July 1947. It was created as a four-seat general-purpose helicopter, and at least 180 were made in four major versions until 1959.
After conquering many small issues, it went to function efficiently in the RAF. It was also utilized for search and rescue, pilot training, and army communications work. In 1971, these helicopters officially retired, but the last two soldiered on until August 1972. These helicopters were sold to Germany, Belgium, and Australia.
The layout and design of the were traditional, along with a 3-blade main rotor as well as an anti-torque tail rotor. The Bristol Sycamore is powered by a 520-bhp Alvis Leonides air-cooled radial engine.
Its cockpit featured two seats: one for the pilot and the other seat for a passenger or co-pilot. Meanwhile, the rear cabin had three-fold-down seats for passengers. A crew team in the rear cabin operated a power-winch on the state board side, directing the pilot through the intercom for other rescue work. It can accommodate a maximum of 181 kilograms or 400 lbs.
The operator would then hoist people into the cabin and to the doorway.
The airplane took to the air for the very first time in April 1947 along with test pilot H. A. Marsh at the controls. By that time, it was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine. Two years after, a second prototype became the first helicopter to be approved with a Certificate of Airworthiness.
A final model selected the Bristol 171 to be geared with a more influential Alvis Leonides rotary engine.
The Bristol Sycamore was mainly based at RANAS Nowra but served on the aircraft carriers HMAS Vengeance, Melbourne, or Sydney whenever they were at sea with fixed-wing squadrons embarked. The main role of Sycamore was plane guard, flying close to the stern or bow of the carrier during catapult launches and deck landings in case of an emergency.
They were also used for personnel transportation, mail deliveries, communication duties, medical emergencies, photographic exercises, and utility duties around the fleet. The Bristol Sycamore worked extremely hard, becoming an essential part of the carrier’s aviation component.
In the 1950s, helicopters were a novelty, and the Bristol Sycamores gained a huge amount of attention, initiating excitement wherever they went.