At a ceremony on Nov. 15, the Vertical Flight Society officially recognized Weston Airport, Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, U.K., as a Vertical Flight Heritage site. The land, now owned by The Helicopter Museum, is the 10th site to gain such designation by VFS.
A plaque marking the designation was installed on the museum's restored World War II-era control tower/pilots' block. The historic buildings now house the Weston Aviation Exhibition, which tells the story of the area's aviation history including Weston Airport, Royal Air Force (RAF) Locking and local aircraft factories.
The Weston-super-Mare Airport has been involved with helicopters since Bristol Aeroplane Company Chief Helicopter designer Raoul Hafner temporarily located his office at the Banwell factory in 1945. From 1955, the main Oldmixon Factory manufactured the Sycamore helicopter and completed development of the Type 192 Belvedere, which first flew at the airfield on 5 July 1958.
The Oldmixon factory was taken over by Westland in 1960 and was used for Wasp, Gazelle, Puma, Lynx and Sea King production and overhaul work for more than 40 years.
The airport has been a “vital center for rotary winged activity leading to the development of the helicopter in the U.K.,” said David Gibbings Deputy Chairman of the Yeovil Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society. “In 1959, the UK government called for amalgamation of all the British helicopter manufacturers into a single entity led by Westland helicopters Ltd. The result was that Weston-super-Mare was used as a development site, project office and production facility until the late 1970s. In addition to the helicopter engineering work that has taken place here, full recognition must be given to the presence of the Helicopter Museum, which from small beginnings has grown into one of the biggest and most important helicopter museums in the world.”