January 2023

Westland Whirlwind HAR.3

Sikorsky Whirlwind HAR.21

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Westland WS-55 Whirlwind HAR.3

HMS ARK Royal Ship’s SAR Flight, 1956.

Airfix 1/72  with Model Alliance decals.

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The Westland Whirlwind continued Westland's successful alliance with US firm Sikorsky, partly funded by the US Govt's MDAP programme to assist NATO allies.

The first Whirlwind HAR.21 and HAS.22 variants were US built airframes and saw active service as troop carriers in Malaya and at Suez (HAR.21), as well as forming up the RN’s first dedicated anti-submarine helicopter squadron (HAS.22). Ten early HAR.1 Whirlwinds built by Westlands were based on the HO4S US Navy anti-submarine variant, with power provided by a 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp rotary engine.  These were found to be badly underpowered and were quickly replaced by the 700 hp Wright Cyclone powered HAR.3 whilst Westland worked to fit a more powerful British engine.

Twenty five HAR.3s were built, replacing the Westland Dragonfly in the SAR role ashore and afloat.  Despite the uprated engine, they were still badly underpowered with a limited load capacity in all but very cold weather and were replaced by more powerful torpedo armed HAS.7 aircraft from 1957 onward, with the last HAR.3s leaving front-line service in around 1963.

The aircraft depicted by this model is XG572 / 971, a HAR.3 used as HMS ARK ROYAL's Plane Guard / SAR aircraft. Delivered in 1955, it was written off after an accident in 1961 near RNAS Culdrose, when the tail struck the ground and became detached.

Building the Airfix Whirlwind Kit:

The Airfix Westland Whirlwind kit was first released in 1956, in markings for a civil passenger aircraft from British European Airways.  In 1966, the kit was re-issued with some additional parts to make a colourful Royal Navy HAR.1 carried by Ice Patrol Ship HMS PROTECTOR.  A further re-issue occurred in 1974, with more colourful markings for a VIP transport HAS.22 from 781 Sqn at RNAS Lee-On-Solent in 1961 (plus a cabin winch!).  

It has now re-appeared in 2022 as an Airfix Vintage Classic Kit, once again as a VIP aircraft, and once again without the extra float parts for the Antarctic version - although the Antarctic transparent parts (beacon and light) are present on their sprue.

And after 66 years, a Classic Kit it certainly is and still a favourite of mine. Even in its latest guise, the mouldings still look sharp, with moulded fuselage detail (stand-fast large rivets) particularly well done - I have previously used an imprint of this kit's starboard engine louvres to modify my Italeri-based kit.

However, be in no doubt that this is an  old kit, with some definite build challenges!  The kit is not complex, but it is not that easy to build well either. Several elements of accuracy are questionable e.g. the nose gear and underside of the engine compartment are very simplified and in the case of the front wheels, are in the wrong place. Transparent parts are very thick, and the distinctive sliding window rails are missing, as are the 4 cabin roof windows. Fit is generally OK though, but comparison with the Italeri kit suggests it may be a little under scale.  The windscreen was not a good fit and needed some filling (with Krystal Klear) around the top and bottom.

This was intended as a simple quick build (to unwind from building the old Airfix Vulcan last month). As well as modifying the nose area to add detail and move the wheels, I have opened one cockpit window and fitted a single pilot to fill the space. Since the front wheels are very plain (in the HAR.1 kit they are covered by floats), I have added a centre spigot from polystyrene rod. Window rails have been added from plastic strip.  To better reflect the engine undersides, I have sanded the area flat, added some sprue "lumps" and a few hoses.

The rotor head is also very basic, so some simple details were added, based ion my reference pictures and on the Italeri kit. The blade fold follows the approach I used for my Italeri HAR.1 - simply cutting and re-positioning the blades, using plastic strips to build the stowage supports.  It makes the kit much less vulnerable to handle or store and I think it adds some interest.

Decals for a Plane Guard HAR.3 came from the old Model Alliance HMS ARK ROYAL Air Wing set.  Unfortunately these have several issues - the Royal Navy scripts, both large (tail boom) and small (cabin door) are both far too large, almost as if they are 1/48.  The roundel is also too large to fit in the available space.  

The Airfix Whirlwind kit was one of my first ever model builds, in the late 1960s or early 1970s, inspired by the fact that my dad did his National Service on SAR aircraft, and because we saw quite a lot flying around near our house (albeit horrible RAF yellow ones!).  My first 2 builds have long gone (although parts still emerge from the spares box from time to time).  My 3rd remains in the collection in VIP green colours. This one makes a good addition and a happy walk down memory lane!  It is definitely a kit from another era, but I hope you will agree that it has scrubbed up well :)

nb.  I have also built the Italeri Sikorsky UH-19A Chickasaw kit as a HAR.1.  It is an infinitely better kit, but needs quite a lot of changes to make it a UK-built aircraft.  The straight tailed variant of the kit seems to have been quite rare in the UK, possibly because of exclusive initial distribution agreements with Revell, who also boxed the H-19A (the same happened with the original Merlin HC.3 kit) - I have several of the later H-19B bent tailed ones in the stash, ready to become a HAS.7 and HAS.9.

The Real Thing!  This photograph shows another aircraft from HMS ARK ROYAL

© IWM A 33920

A HAR.1 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton

Link to many more early helicopter kit builds on my Helos pages

Part 1

Link to January 2023 Part 2 (Whirlwind HAR.21) >>

A HAS.7 at the Helicopter Museum, Weston Super Mare

Rotor Head Detail

Another HAR.1, this time at the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum (ex-Doncaster Aeroventure)

January 2023 - Part 2