Project Aim

The primary aim of the “Whirlwind Fighter Project” is to reproduce a single example of the Westland Whirlwind Mk 1 twin engined single seater fighter-bomber aircraft.
It is intended that the project will result in a non-airworthy reproduction of the Westland Whirlwind, built to available original plans, with (where possible) original materials. The reproduction will use whatever original structure, parts, including engines, undercarriage and (deactivated/replica) armament as are currently available.
The intention is to produce a reproduction aircraft which is indistinguishable from an aircraft in Squadron service during the Second World War.

Project Phases

1. Establish Project Committee, capable of raising funds and supervising each stage of the Project.

A core group of 5 has been set up to co-ordinate and gather information and to explore and utilise the offers of help from various bodies and organisations so far received.
Various ways of fund raising are being explored at present including the selling of T shirts, prints, photographs etc, and by direct donations. The total materials only build cost is projected at £35-£40,000. This will be totally labour free, but will include the costs incurred from any specialist engineering organisations for casting or machining of any large assemblies we cannot undertake in-house.

2. Identify support for project, particularly from the successor to the original manufacturer, perhaps in the form of manufacturing information, apprentice training, or a retired staff project.

With the passage of time few surviving retired staff will be available to put any input into the project. We are currently looking at individuals to produce parts as projects around the country, in the manner of wartime dispersed production. We also have some ex RAF personnel - already involved with other projects - keen to also contribute to this project. Conversations with AgustaWestland - the inheritors of an amount of material as successor to the original manufacturer Westland Aircraft Ltd - are ongoing. The company have been very helpful, and we now have access to a considerable archive of material.

5. Identify surviving Whirlwind artefacts in public/private collections/elsewhere

Various items held by private collectors and organisations have so far been identified These include the remains of two engines, undercarriage assembly, cowls, and some pieces of the centre section leading edge structure. Further investigations are being undertaken into known wreck sites etc.

4. Identify location to act as project focus/store/workshop

The aircraft is being constructed at Airframe Assemblies Sandown I.O.W

3. Identify national museum support for project

Some major collections in the UK have been approached with a view to displaying the completed aircraft.

6. Investigate potential for donation of such artefacts to the project or their use as patterns

Preliminary agreements are in place.

7. Identify standard/generic parts eg electrical components, radio equipment, instruments and other equipment which can be used in the reproduction

Many items are still available and some currently held in stock.

8. Seek surviving drawings for aircraft

A large collection of drawings already available in the public domain have been gathered, together along with many photographs and film. Further material has very kindly been made available by AgustaWestland.

11. Refurbish existing artefacts

10. Commission missing drawings for the aircraft using CAD as appropriate.

CAD work is in progress

9. Seek official Air Ministry (AP) publications on the aircraft, notably servicing / spare parts manuals and Pilots Notes

All available manuals etc have been acquired in copy form from Hendon and other locations and are held ready.

12. Seek materials for the reproduction

A supplier for commercially available material has already been identified.

13. The project construction could be broken down into a number of finite stages viz

  • Cockpit/nose section
  • Fuselage
  • Tail empennage
  • Wings
  • Engines and engine mounts
  • Propellers
  • Nacelles, including cowlings and undercarriage doors
  • Undercarriage
14. The aircraft would be finished in an appropriate scheme in colours to the correct specifications. Given that only two Squadrons operated the aircraft, it might be appropriate that the Squadron codes of both squadrons are exhibited on either side of the aircraft.

Warbird Colours are one of the companies supporting the project and have offered to carry out all the external paintwork and apply the appropriate markings etc. to the finished machine.

16. The disposition of the completed airframe is as yet undetermined but it is expected that the reproduction will be of a standard for it to be displayed by the Museum authorities in the RAF Museum at Hendon or a similar major collection

Ownership of the aircraft upon completion will come under a trust who will decide its eventual display location but it is intended that during its first display year following completion it will appear on display at as many shows around the UK as is feasible to enable members and sponsors to get 'up close' to the aircraft they have been involved with.

15. Identity of the aircraft will either be that of the largest remaining original artefact incorporated into the reproduction, or P7123, a serial number one on from that of the final wartime production aircraft, or P7065 'Pride of Yeovil' - an aircraft with a representative service history and bearing a name that reflects the local war effort of the town of origin of the Whirlwind.

Timeline

1936

Air ministry creates F37/35 order for new aircraft

11 December 1937

Contract placed for two prototypes (L6844 and L6845)

4 October 1938

L6844 undergoes preliminary taxying trials

11 October 1938

First flight 1700hrs at Boscombe Down

10 November 1938

Back at Yeovil for contractors’ trials

31 December 1938

At RAF Farnborough for handling trials

29 March 1939

First flight L8645

May 1939

MAP order for 200 aircraft

August 1939

Manufacture of peregrine suspended in favour of merlin’s

February 1940

First full production Peregrine’s dispatched

March/April 1940

Both L6844 and L6845 at RAF Farnborough and then Martlesham Heath

6 July 1940

P9666 arrives at Grangemouth for 263 Squadron

1st September 1940

First 6 263-Sdn Whirlwinds are single-line entry in Dowding’s ‘Order of Battle’ document

20 September 1941

137 Squadron forms on Whirlwinds

May 1943

137 Squadron relinquishes on Whirlwinds

December 1943

263 Squadron relinquishes on Whirlwinds

January 1944

Westland Whirlwind declared obsolete

January 1944

Peter Twiss ferries the Grumman-evaluated Whirlwind to Eglin Field in Florida

P7048

Remains at Westland as A-AGOI company hack

1947

Dismantled