STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Westland Aircraft - UK
OPERATORS: Belgium; Czech Republic; Egypt; Hong Kong; Italy; Netherlands; Thailand; United Kingdom; Yugoslavia
LENGTH: 57.58 feet (17.55 meters)
WIDTH: 48.06 feet (14.65 meters)
HEIGHT: 12.96 feet (3.95 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 4,409 pounds (2,000 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 5,875 pounds (2,665 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Alvis Leonides 50 series radial piston engine developing 540 horsepower and driving a three-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED (MAX): 96 miles-per-hour (155 kilometers-per-hour; 84 knots)
RANGE: 301 miles (485 kilometers; 262 nautical miles)
CEILING: 12,402 feet (3,780 meters; 2.35 miles)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Westland Dragonfly (WS-51) Light Utility Helicopter.
Entry last updated on 8/24/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
For a period in its history, Westland Aircraft of the United Kingdom produced, under license, the Sikorsky "S-51" helicopter product as the WS-51 "Dragonfly". This light utility-minded platform was operated in the Search & Rescue (SAR) and communications roles for its time in service and 133 of the type were produced by Westland from the period spanning 1949 to 1954. A first-flight of a prototype was had on October 5th, 1948 and service introduction occurred in 1950.
Rather than develop a helicopter system from scratch, Westland managed to secure a production agreement with Sikorsky for the S-51 in December of 1946. The aircraft retained all of the form and function of the original including its rather utilitarian appearance, three-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor. The wheeled tricycle undercarriage was fixed in place and the forward section of the fuselage contained a series of window panels for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. The helicopter was essentially a no-frills product that could be handed different over-battlefield roles.
Beyond the WS-51 prototype - the sole example completed - were several major variants: The HR.Mk 1 was the standard SAR platform of which thirteen were built for the British Royal Navy (RN) and these were powered by 1 x Alvis 50 radial piston engine 540 horsepower. The HC.Mk1 served the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in the casualty evacuation role - only two were procured. The HR.Mk 3 was used by the RN in the air-search and SAR roles and finished with all-metal rotor blades. Some seventy-one were built. The HC.Mk 4 was another casualty evacuation helicopter developed to serve the RAF and these were given the same all-metal rotor blades with production reaching twelve units in all. The HR.Mk 5 was another air-search / SAR platform and used by the RN. These were built up from existing HR.Mk 1 and HR.Mk 3 models.
Two civilian transport forms also emerged in time, these being the WS-51 Mk 1A and WS-51 Mk 1B. The former carried an Alvis "Leonides" 521/1 series radial engine of 520 horsepower and the latter was finished with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 "Wasp Junior" B4 radial engine of 450 horsepower. Production totaled 36 and 15, respectively.
Once in circulation, the series gave good service and was eventually taken on by the militaries of Egypt, Hong Kong, Italy, Thailand and Yugoslavia as well. Commercial/civilian market operations were seen with helicopter through Belgium and the United Kingdom.
The Dragonfly was directly succeeded in British Royal Navy service by the Westland "Whirlwind" helicopter - another locally-produced licensed product from Sikorksy (the S-55/H-19 "Chickasaw").
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (96mph).
Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Westland Dragonfly's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units