Sycamore flies back to Weston
The arrival of the Flying Bulls’ Bristol Sycamore OE-XSY/XG545 in south-east England on 8 June 2018 was the first time that one of these historic helicopters had been seen flying in UK airspace for 46 years. After its keynote participation in the RAF Cosford airshow, the world’s only airworthy Sycamore flew ‘home’ the next day to Weston-superMare, Somerset, where it was built sixty years ago.
The first British-designed helicopter to serve with the RAF, the Bristol Type 171 was produced between 1955 and 1959 at Oldmixon. The Flying
Bulls’ example was one of fifty Sycamores built for the German Air Force and Navy. It was first flown as G-18-148 in 1958 and delivered to the Marineflieger as a Vip-equipped HR52 with the serial CA+328. At the time of its retirement in 1973, the
Sycamore was being operated by the Luftwaffe, serialled 78+117. After storage, it was sold to farmer Karl Muller who registered it as D-HALD in 1976, and it was flown in support of the Hanover Fire Service until August 1982. Swiss vineyard owner and helicopter enthusiast Peter Schmidt acquired the Sycamore in June 1988 and got it airworthy again. Painted overall green, D-HALD was displayed in France, Germany and Switzerland. In August 1991 it was re-registered HB-RXB, and in 1994 it was repainted as XG544 representing the last RAF No 32 Squadron Sycamore HR14 to fly when delivered to the Torbay Aircraft Museum on 11 August 1972.
First advertised for sale in 1995, the vintage helicopter was eventually purchased by Red Bull at Salzburg, Austria in 2008. Before it could join the Flying Bulls, the Sycamore – now registered OE-XSY – required an extensive overhaul. Emerging from this still retaining its RAF paint scheme but with the serial XG545, it made its first airshow appearance at Zeltweg, Austria in September 2016.
Siegfried ‘Blacky’ Schwarz, the only qualified and experienced Sycamore pilot in the world, flew OE-XSY into The Helicopter Museum on 11 June 2018. THM is located on the former Weston Airfield within sight of the former Bristol Aeroplane Company’s Oldmixon factory where the Sycamore had made its first flight on 3 February 1958. Schwarz said: “It’s an incredible feeling to bring it back home because it took us ten years to get the helicopter airborne, get my licence and everything else and then finally we made it to Great Britain, and to the home of the Sycamore.” After two weeks on display at THM it was due to appear at the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day, RIAT 2018 and Farnborough International in July.
The Flying Bulls' Sycamore flew home to Weston-super-mare – its birthplace of sixty years earlier