British International - helicopter

British International
the helicopters


 

The Sikorsky S-61N

Sikorsky S-61NM The S-61N was the mainstay of air services to Scilly for almost 50 years.

The world's most successful medium/heavy civil helicopter, the S-61N has dominated oil operations on both sides of the North Sea, and has established a world-wide reputation akin to that of the ubiquitous and much-loved Douglas DC-3 / C-47 Dakota airliner and transport.

Derived from the anti-submarine and rescue Sea King helicopter designed by Sikorsky Helicopters, the civil version first flew in December 1960. This was the S-61L, and the S-61N amphibious version first flew in August 1962. The S-61NM (including G-BCEB operated by British International) is an S-61L converted to S-61N standard, and incorporating the floats and the taller tail unit.

The S-61N as operated by British International on the route to Scilly was equipped with twin VORs, NDB, DME, GPS, weather radar, radar altimeter, stabilization system, and ground proximity warning system. The company was the first commercial helicopter operator to introduce running refuelling turnrounds, and in 1998 introduced GPS approaches on the Penzance/Scilly route - the first of this type in the UK.

The operating crew was two pilots plus one cabin crew. In its standard seating layout the S-61N can carry up to twenty-eight passengers, and the S-61NM used by British International could carry up to thirty-two passengers. Normally both the S-61NM and S-61Ns operating the route to Scilly were configured with twenty-six seats.

Operations in recent years have been carried out with only S-61N on station at Penzance, being either the S-61NM G-BCEB or S-61N G-BFFJ (which carried out the last flights to Scilly).

passenger cabin
S-61N S-61N

 

Helicopter types

S-51 Other helicopters have served Scilly: the Sikorsky S-58T, Sikorsky S-76A, Westland 30, Agusta A.109A, and Aerospatiale SA.365C Dauphin 2.

Route proving in 1963 was carried out with the Westland WS-55, and the EH101 was flown from Penzance in 1994 and 1999.

Basic data for the main helicopter types are shown here (actual performance will vary according to flight operated and load carried).

Data / Type

S-58T

S-61N

S-76A

WG.30

Rotor Diameter (ft/ins)

56 - 00

62 - 00

44 - 00

43 - 08

Engines

2

2

2

2

Max Weight (lbs)

13,000

20,500

10,300

12,350

Cruise speed (kts)

110

120

125

120

Range (nm)

250

450

400

200

Crew

1 + 1

2 + 1

1 + 1

1 + 1

Passengers

18

28

12

14

see notes on the S-61N in the introduction section above
and data in the S-61N/EH101/S-92 comparison table below

The following aircraft are known to have served Scilly -

S-61N: G-ASNL, G-ASNM, G-ATBJ, G-ATFM, G-AWFX, G-AYOY, G-AZCF,
G-BBUD, G-BCEA, G-BCEB, G-BDDA, G-BDKI, G-BEJL, G-BEON, G-BEWL, G-BFFJ, G-VIPZ

S-58T: G-BCLN/G-BCLO

S-76A: G-BIAW, G-BUXB, G-BZAC

Westland 30: G-BKGD

A.109A: G-BVCJ, G-BXIV, G-USTB

Dauphin 2: G-PLMI

Westland WS-55: G-AOCF (route proving)

Westland EH101: G-OIOI/ZJ116 (demonstration flights)

(In addition to the helicopters shown above, fixed-wing aircraft of other operators have been used to stand in briefly in the 1970s, notably the Britten-Norman Islanders of Aurigny Air Services and Brymon Airways).

 

Echo Bravo - Scilly's Own

Sikorsky S-61N G-BCEB, call sign Echo Bravo, operated the service from Penzance from 1975 to 2011.

G-BCEB It was originally built as an S-61L and then modified to the amphibious S-61N standard (and designated an S-61NM), and had to be quite the smartest S-61N there was.

G-BCEB was named Isles of Scilly by Lady Wilson in 1989 to mark the 25th anniversary of the helicopter service.

The S-61NM configuration of Echo Bravo was particularly suited to the service to Scilly. Integral baggage lockers are fitted in the lower hull, easing the work of the ground staff.

The forward located entry door also meant that passengers were not exposed to exhaust fumes when boarding and disembarking, and the five minute turnrounds were made running - with engines and rotors turning. Coming to a full stop each time would have lengthened a turnround to fifteen minutes, losing two round trips on peak days.

 

The 21st Century

The Sikorsky S-61N has been subject to a continuous programme of development and improvement and it will be some years before the type is replaced. Sikorsky has anticipated that it will support the S-61 family until 2040, there are the Carson rotor blade upgrades and the strong market for the S-61T conversion.

A number of replacement type options would have been available for the route to Scilly, the major types being the civil version of the EH101 helicopter developed by Westland Helicopters of the UK in a joint programme with Agusta of Italy, and the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter. British International also expressed interest in the proposed Bell/Agusta BA619 tilt-rotor for extending scheduled services in the UK.

Both the EH101 and S-92 offer significant design and operating features, and either would have been able to fit in the hangar at Penzance.

The civil EH101 was demonstrated at Penzance in May 1994 as part of the anniversary marking thirty years of the helicopter service and again in May 1999, when flights to St Mary's and Tresco were made.

Comparison details of the S-61N, EH101 and the S-92 are shown here (actual performance will vary according to flight operated and load carried).

Data / Type

S-61N

EH101

S-92

Rotor Diameter (ft/ins)

62 - 00

61 - 00

56 - 04

Engines

2

3

2

Max Weight (lbs)

20,500

32,190

26,150

Cruise speed (kts)

120

150

140

Range (nm)

450

750

490

Crew

2 + 1

2 + 1

2 (+ 1)

Passengers (standard)
Passengers (maximum)

28
32

30
40

19
24

S-61N passenger capacity is 28 / S-61NM variant can seat up to 32
normal S-61N/S-61NM configuration on services to Scilly was 26 seats

 

BEA S-51
Westland S-51 helicopter (former Royal Navy WP495) at the RAF Museum (Cosford) in BEA markings

text, G-BCEB and S-51 photograph © Mike Ingham
S-61NM photograph © C Moore
helicopter logo and small photograph © British International
this text is based on an extract from the book Atlantic Helicopter © 1989


British International - helicopter Aquila: British International

this page last updated 10 November 2012

© HFM Design


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