Lynx World Speed Record Helicopter Restored 25 Years On

After a four year restoration programme undertaken by a team of AgustaWestland apprentices, the record breaking Westland Lynx helicopter, which is still the official holder of the helicopter World Speed Record, was today unveiled by AgustaWestland’s CEO Bruno Spagnolini and apprentices to employees gathered at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil factory.

After the unveiling Bruno Spagnolini, CEO, said “To have held the world helicopter speed record for 25 years highlights what an outstanding achievement it was by all those involved in the project and the development of the rotor blade technology that was key to the successful record attempt. The apprentices are to be also congratulated on performing an excellent restoration of this historically important helicopter, it is their skills and knowledge that will help keep AgustaWestland at the very forefront of rotorcraft technology for the next 25 years.”

Following its World Record breaking flight in 1986 the aircraft went on to become the test bed for  CTS800-4N engines and was heavily modified before finally being retired from development flying in 1991. In January 1995 the helicopter was donated to the Helicopter Museum where it was preserved and put on public display, then in 2007 AgustaWestland agreed to undertake the restoration of the aircraft back to its World Speed Record configuration. The aircraft returned to Yeovil, where it was originally built, and the team of apprentices set about the major task of restoring the aircraft to as close a condition as possible to that on its record breaking flight.

The team of AgustaWestland apprentices have spent over 25,000 hours researching the configuration of the aircraft, de-modifying the aircraft, locating the original parts wherever possible, sourcing missing parts, rebuilding the aircraft and finally repainting it in its distinctive world speed record colours with all the logos of those companies that assisted the original project.

The 11th August 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Westland Lynx helicopter setting a new world helicopter speed record of 249.1 mph (400.87 kph). The Lynx helicopter, registered G-LYNX, flew a 15km course across the Somerset Levels at 500 ft on a calm hazy evening back in 1986 with Chief Test Pilot Trevor Egginton at the controls and Derek Clews, Flight Test Engineer alongside. The average speed achieved over two runs was 249.1 mph (400.87 kph), beating the record held by a modified Mil “Hind” helicopter by over 20 mph (32 kph).

The world record flight was made possible by the use of advanced technology composite rotor blades developed as part of the British Experimental Rotor Programme (BERP) project. The BERP programme was carried out in co-operation with the UK Ministry of Defence to produce an advanced technology rotor blade, which exploits the advantages to be gained by aerodynamic tailoring through the use of modern composite materials and construction methods. The first BERP blades were flown on 9th August 1985 and such was the progress achieved G-LYNX was able to claim the World Speed Record just one year later. Production versions of the original BERP blades are now fitted to all Lynx helicopters in service and the same technology is used for the AW101 main rotor blades. To this day AgustaWestland continues to be at the very forefront of rotor technology and is currently developing new rotor blades that will incorporate active blade technology to reduce noise and be more efficient, thereby reducing fuel consumption.

The three month programme to modify a standard Lynx to world speed record configuration was launched on 22nd May 1986 and included installing more powerful Rolls-Royce Gem 60 engines. These engines were cleared to operate at their maximum contingency rating, thereby boosting power by 45%. Engine power was further boosted by utilising a water-methanol injection system. To improve yaw control a new low set tail plane with vertical fins was fitted which also offload the tail rotor.

A drag reduction exercise was undertaken involving the fairing of the main rotor head, removal of external items such as steps, aerials and windscreen wipers, while joints were sealed and cooling ducts blanked where possible.

Later this month “G-LYNX” will return to The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, the world’s largest collection of rotorcraft with over 90 helicopters in its collection,  where it will be put on public display alongside an original WG13 Lynx prototype.