The Helicopter Museum
1969 to 1979 The Early Years


 


The origins of the Helicopter Museum goes back to 1958, when the founder, aviation writer/historian Elfan ap Rees, began to build up a private collection of rotorcraft
documentation and artifacts. Over the next 10 years his collection grew and in 1969 he acquired his first complete helicopter, a Bristol Sycamore Mk.3.

In 1974 his purchase of a Bristol Belvedere, built at Weston-super-Mare, motivated the formation of a volunteer group to restore the aircraft.

In the following years more acquisitions were made and the volunteer group expanded to start preserving the collection. In December 1976 an ex Royal Navy Westland Whirlwind HAS Mk.7 was acquired.

In July 1977 an ex Royal Air Force Bristol Sycamore HC Mk.14 was added to the growing collection, increasing the number of aircraft in the collection to eight.

1977 also saw the formation of the British Rotorcraft Museum, a registered charity and Limited company, with the primary aims of further developing the collection and opening it up to the public.

1978 saw continued growth of the historic collection of rotorcraft with three rare prototypes joining the collection. These were the Fairey Ultra-Light tip-jet driven helicopter, the Thruxton Gadfly HDW.1 two-seat autogyro and the Campbell Cougar autogyro, which became the first aircraft acquired directly by the museum itself.

In the 1978 the museum managed to obtain a small area and some buildings on Weston-super-Mare airfield which included a second world war armoury building and air-raid shelter. The buildings required extensive repair work but by the summer of 1978 the collection was opened to the public, with nine aircraft on display and a range artifacts.

Due to the success of the this initial opening the museum collection was again opened up to the public for the summer season in 1979, but the lack of a permanent site for the ever growing collection was now foremost in the minds of the members of the Museum, so the search was started for a suitable site.