Westland Sikorsky WS51 Dragonfly HC4 XB251 (Former HR3 WN499)
In 2006 YHPG were made aware of the remains of a Dragonfly helicopter that were about to be scrapped on the fire training area at Caernarfon Airport, fortunately we acted quickly enough to obtain a stay of execution to enable us to arrange an inspection of the remains with a view to salvaging whatever we could.
Following the survey, we decided that we may have a use for it and the airport were happy for us to remove the remains of the WN499 to our base at Doncaster where a more in-depth survey could be facilitated as time permitted.
Why would we take on such a mammoth task to resurrect what to all intents was a large pile of alloy scrap? This is something over the last few years that we wondered every time we looked at it all stored behind our workshop! However, we did have aims which have evolved into a workable plan as we have collected more parts since the time of the rescue.
‘The Masterplan’………………..The intention of YHPG is to build out of the available parts of WN499 and additional components an RAF HC4 Dragonfly in order to fill a void in the visible history of RAF Helicopters. As all the Dragonfly’s in UK preservation are ex-Royal Navy Mk 3’s & 5’s we decided that there was no point in ‘restoring’ yet another bearing in mind the costs involved and with the condition of this airframe which was leading up to its scrapping we made the decision that now was the time to put the ‘masterplan’ into operation.
It had been a concern of ours for some time that there was nothing visible to portray the use of the Dragonfly by the RAF during ‘Operation Firedog’ in the 1950’s Malayan conflict. Therefore using the parts as described we will be able to cover the history of the RAF Dragonfly’s and of 194 Squadron (known as – ‘The Friendly Firm’) which following its World War 2 transport role in the far east was resurrected in 1953 as the first fully established RAF helicopter squadron. The identity our example will be taking will be XB 251 which by talking to former 194 Sqn engineers was the last flying example on the squadron as the Sycamore helicopters gradually replaced them on operations.
The rebuild has now commenced with the tail boom in the workshops having 30 years of neglect rectified. From here on to avoid confusion the project will be known as XB 251.
The most difficult area for us to build will be the cabin interior as this was completely stripped out prior to being positioned in the children’s play area at Caernarfon . Eventually being condemned as too dangerous even for this task it was given to the fire team to use on their training area and the rest, as they say, is now history.
Needless to say, should you have or know of anyone who may have any parts that they think we may have a use for we would be pleased to hear from you (particularly for the cabin/cockpit area). As always of course these rebuilds are costly on the purse for a group like ours which is entirely volunteer funded and run, the speed of completion will rely to a certain extent on the money we can raise as we go along so if you feel that you would like to help with a donation it would be gratefully accepted.
Mike Fitch. 24/3/19