Review by Sven Atkin.
This book covers the continued life and times of one of the Royal Navy’s ground breaking rotary wing stalwarts. The diminutive Westland Wasp is a helicopter that proved to be a reliable, well-loved, and very hard worked, aircraft by its aircrew and ground crews.
The accounts from crews who flew this helicopter are excellent reading and demonstrate the versatility of the type and the diversity of roles it performed throughout its service life. Some stories are really amusing and hark back to an age when there was more common sense and personal responsibility expected of people. They didn’t always get it right, but it adds to the rich tapestry of what flying a Wasp in the Royal Navy was really like.
One of the things that struck me was how risky, by today’s standards, many of the sorties were, especially, when you consider the weather conditions, the lack of sophisticated navigation aids and electronic sensors compared to what the Wildcat and Merlin helicopter crews enjoy today. I wonder how the crews of today would view the accounts of their forebears.
The book goes on to describe what has become of the Wasp since its retirement from service. Terry Martin owns and operates Wasp XT787 (G-KAXT) and attends country fairs and airshows throughout the spring, summer and autumn months in the UK. He offers the opportunity for the paying public to enjoy a flight in XT787 on organised days. As part of the experience, you are suited and booted in flying coveralls and a flying helmet. Depending on how many flights are planned, you have the opportunity to help pre-flight the helicopter and post-flight, wipe the aircraft down and put it to bed. An experience, I’m hoping to take up in the near future.
This volume is a very enjoyable and absorbing read. It’s refreshing to read about the Wasp in its retirement, an aspect that’s not covered in many rotary wing books. Knowing these amazing little helicopters are being lovingly maintained and kept flying by dedicated owners and crews is extremely heartening. There seems to be a renaissance of flying historic helicopters in the UK and the Wasps can be regarded as the pioneers here too.
More details can be found on the Westland Wasp Historic Flight website.