Belvedere returns home as latest Helicopter Museum exhibit

The Bristol Belvedere was carried into the museum.

The Bristol Belvedere was carried into the museum. - Credit: Helicopter Museum

A rare helicopter built in Weston more than 60 years ago has returned to the town as a museum exhibit.

The Helicopter Museum near Haywood Village added two helicopters to its collection on Friday. A Bristol Belvedere and an AgustaWestland HeliLiner was delivered to the museum after a long wait caused by the pandemic.

Now with two of only three remaining Belvedere's in existence, the museum will showcase its latest star exhibit to visitors. Engineers will also study both helicopter's for training purposes as a rare example of tandem rotor aircraft.

The Bristol Belvedere is one of the newest editions to the museum.  

The 54 foot long fuselage was transported to the museum. - Credit: Helicopter Museum

For nearly three years, the Helicopter Museum has eagerly waited for the Belvedere's arrival after it was on display at Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. 

Built in 1960 at the Oldmixon helicopter factory on Winterstoke Road - just a stone's throw away from its new home - the Bristol Aeroplane Company Belvedere was Britain's only tandem rotor helicopter to enter production, with only 26 ever built.

This Belvedere crashed one month after leaving the production line and was rebuilt twice at the Bristol Helicopter factory, but never saw service outside of the UK. With a tendency to catch fire, the lives of these helicopters were cut short.

Also delivered on Friday was the commercial transport HeliLiner. 

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It will be displayed outdoors temporarily whilst the museum waits to complete a new display hanger where visitors will get the chance to experience the aircraft's cockpit on open days and school visits.

Helicopter Museum

Helicopter Museum - Credit: Archant

A spokesperson for the museum said: "The HeliLiner was the eighth prototype assembled at AgustaWestland's Yeovil factory and first flown in April 1990.

"It was transferred to the military in 1995 for intensive flying and reliability trials in Italy, later flying from Aberdeen on similar trials for offshore oil and gas field company demonstrations, and from Penzance to the Scilly Isles and between Cardiff and London on similar demonstrations.

"It also visited Weston in 2000 for the annual Beach Lawns helicopter fly-in-event.

"October 2001 was its last flight, after which it was donated to the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon by AgustaWestland to represent the military Merlin variant.

"Now, 20 years later the museum has agreed to transfer it to The Helicopter Museum as a more fitting home for this civil helicopter."