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Thursday, May 3rd 2012, 10:20pm

The Westland Westminster flying testbeds were further developed for civil and military roles but these were never built.

The Westland Westminster used the rotor system and transmission of the Sikorsky S.56. Westland held a licence agreement to build the S-56 but instead embarked on a radical redesign powered by two Napier Eland N.El.3 turboshafts. It was proposed to seat 40 passengers and cruise at 130 knots over 150nm stage lengths. Direct operating costs were estimated at 3.9d per passenger per mile at 100% load factor for an annual utilisation of 2000 hours. Despite the lack of offical approval Westland pressed ahead and built a ground running rig. This was so successful that it actually flew as the prototype G-APLE in June 1958. A flying crane was proposed for the RAF capable of carrying 15,000ln loads. The second prototype G-APTX had a midships engineers cabin and eventuallu its fuselage was totallu covered. The S-56 transmission gave problems and Westland sunk £1,350,000 of its own money into the programme but still no offical interest was raised and in 1959-60 Westland slowly absorbed all the helicopter programmes in the UK but the Westminster died in favour of the Rotodyne which did have some limited offical approval.

The civil variant above was to seat 35-40 passengers at an all-up weight of 33,500lbs. The military variant had clamshell rear doors and an all-up weight of 35,000lbs and a cruising speed of 100 knots (185 km/h). In hindsight if Westland could have made Westminster work, and had the government not backed the radical, but risky, Rotodyne then the Sea King could of had a bigger brother. Had they pressed ahead BEA would have brought these instead of the S.61 heliliners it brought in 1964 and the RAF would not have brought the Chinook. The Puma would have made a good companion too.