During the 1940s the Cierva Autogiro Company developed a light, two-seater, piston-engine helicopter as an aerial observation platform. Following a merger between Cierva and Saunders-Roe Ltd, the aircraft became known as the Saunders-Roe (Saro) Skeeter. Saunders-Roe were in their turn taken over by Westland Helicopters and the aircraft was finally renamed the Westland Skeeter.
The Skeeter has a de Havilland Gypsy Major 150 4-cylinder 414 cu inch engine delivering 215 bhp. It cruises at 75 knots and has a maximum speed of 95 knots / 109 mph. With an endurance of 2 hours 20 mins, it has a range of 175 nautical miles.
The first Army Skeeter was collected from Eastleigh and flown to Middle Wallop on 18th January 1957 and was the first helicopter used by the Army Air Corps. In service, it was deployed in reconnaissance, AOP, liaison, training and photographic roles. However, despite being a delight to fly, the aircraft’s service life was relatively short-lived owing to its limited engine performance and the lack of external load capability. The aircraft left Army Air Corps service in 1967, after considerable operational service in the UK and Germany.
The Skeeter was also used in limited numbers by the German Army and the German Navy.
XL812 is currently a non-flying aircraft within the Historic Army Aircraft Flight, having last flown in 2006. The Flight hopes that one day it will be able to restore the Skeeter to flying condition.
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