HAR.10 XJ729 – G-BVGE
Built originally to HAR.2 standard, XJ729 was first flown from Westland’s Yeovil factory on 18th January 1956 and, by March of the same year, she was on strength with No. 22 Search and Rescue Squadron at RAF St. Mawgan. Regularly patrolling the holiday beaches of Devon and Cornwall, it is no wonder that these highly visible helicopters became some of the most instantly recognisable and best loved aircraft in RAF service, irrespective of the fact that they also helped to save countless lives throughout their service life.
In 1961 she went back to Westland Helicopters for upgrade to HAR.10 standard, before returning to St. Mawgan in March 1962, to continue her work. During an extensive service life, she also spent time at RAF Leconfield, RAF Leuchars, RAF Coltishall and RAF Chivenor, before ending her career at the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley, on Anglesey.
Following withdrawal from service, she was sent to RAF Finningley, where she served as an instructional airframe and began to deteriorate from this point. Left outside and open to the elements, she was in a sorry state and was subsequently sold for scrap – a sad end for an aircraft that spent her life helping to save people from perilous situations. Thankfully, she was rescued from the scrapman and an extensive period of restoration began, culminating in her triumphant static appearance at the 1995 Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. Her more recent history was very much associated with Ireland – a businessman from Mullingar bought the aircraft and operated her regularly at Airshows and public events, until her Certificate of Airworthiness expired in 2007. From this date, little was heard about the aircraft and she appeared to drop off the historic aviation radar. It was only in late 2013 that news began to circulate regarding Whirlwind XJ729, as a UK based businessman purchased the aircraft and brought her back to England. Following extensive work, and much investment, XJ729 was granted a Certificate of Airworthiness at the end of November 2013 – she was back!
Whirlwind HAR Mk 10 XJ729/G-BVGE is now a purely civilian aircraft, has recently been refurbished (to be the lightest Whirlwind yet) and painted yellow, the colour she wore when flown by 22 Squadron.
This Helicopter is owned and operated by Mr Andrew Whitehouse.