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Monday, July 13, 2015

AW Marks Westland's Centennial

 An AW609 flies over Yeovil July 12, 2015 during ceremony's marking the centennial of that AgustaWestland facility. Photo courtesy of AgustaWestland

AgustaWestland marked the centennial of its U.K. unit’s formation July 12 in ceremonies at the Yeovil home of what was originally the Westland Aircraft Works.  Opened in 1915 as a branch of the Yeovil engineering business Petters Ltd., Westland built many famous fixed-wing aircraft before its board decided in 1946 to focus entirely on helicopter production. Initially, it produced Sikorsky Aircraft designs under license, but Westland soon developed its own rotorcraft design capabilities. Under a U.K. policy to “rationalize” industry, Westland acquired the aircraft manufacturing interests of Fairey Aviation and the helicopter divisions of Bristol Aeroplane and Saunders-Roe. Its Lynx first took flight in 1971; its updated successor, the Super Lynx 300, remains in production. Westland collaborated with Italy’s Agusta in the 1980s on the EH101, now the AW101. (The companies had first collaborated in the 1960s, with Westland’s licensed production of the Agusta AB47G, based on the Bell Model 47.) In 2001 AgustaWestland was formed as a 50:50 partnership of Finmeccanica and GKN; since 2004, Finmeccanica has wholly owned it. (Agusta marked its centennial in 2007.) Yeovil is the final assembly site for the Super Lynx 300, AW159 (formerly the Future Lynx), AW101 and the new-generation, civil AW189. In addition, Yeovil provides operational support and training for U.K. military helicopters.

Photo courtesy of AgustaWestland

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