Don Berrington was Managing Director of the Helicopter Division at Westland when the world helicopter speed record was set by G-Lynx
This idea was hatched up by, well, you’ve probably heard of the individuals who were most concerned with it, I mean Richard Case, Geoff Byham, John Perry, obviously the pilots but I was the Managing Director of the helicopters division but I didn’t actually know about this. It was pretty well advanced when I heard about it. They didn’t take me into their confidence to start with and a jolly good job they didn’t because, to be honest, I mean the state the company was in, nobody wanted a boys’ own adventure that may or may not work and would undoubtedly cost money. But they very cleverly got a lot of help from all the suppliers, Rolls Royce in particular, in terms of not only goods but also money and so eventually, when I was let into the secret, as it were, they’d got it pretty well thought out. They were pretty confident that it was going to work and pretty confident that it wouldn’t cost anything like what one might have feared because of the help from all the other companies. So then my job was to try and sell this to Hugh Stewart and Sir John Cuckney that no, it wasn’t a boys’ own adventure, this was something that was almost self-funding and was bound to succeed etc., etc. None of which could be possibly guaranteed but there we go. But on the day it did.
I think the technical people perhaps, they just wanted to do it, you know, everybody loves speed, everybody loves a record and a world record, well that’s wonderful, that’s what we really need. And indeed, that was the effect it had. I mean overnight, overnight, we went from being an ailing, failing, West Country company to being a world beater and it made a huge difference. The moral of the workforce just rocketed. The importance was perhaps was much greater than the mere technical achievement of getting a world speed record.
And you were there on the day, 1986, 11th August … were you up at Glastonbury or where were you watching?
I was in the middle of nowhere on the Somerset levels and it was a pretty misty day and people were there with their flares to give Trevor a clear idea of where he was going or a semi-clear idea, and, you know, out of this mist came, well, first of all, you heard this enormous noise, I mean the noise was unbelievable and then roaring in out of this mist came G-Lynx. That was it really. It was a wonderful, wonderful achievement. I was actually totally overwhelmed by the power of the whole thing. I mean it was a hugely powerful experience, this thing coming at you, I mean, because it was very low level remember, very low level. One of the intriguing things about G-Lynx and the record was that I was talking about all these WG30s that were being built with no customer as it were but at least some of the components were useful because the WG30 tailplane was actually fitted to G-Lynx. The normal Lynx had a single-sided tailplane, G-Lynx has a symmetrical tailplane, quite a big tailplane to trim the aircraft at those speeds and that came, or the origin of that was the WG30 so slightly ironic really.
I mean it was a publicist’s dream, wasn’t it? And we made the most of it. It was happening just before Farnborough so we had a huge reception at Farnborough for all the people who had contributed to it and the suppliers and what have you and then there was a very glittering assembly on the Thames with G-Lynx on a barge and we had, who did we have? We didn’t have Prince Philip on that occasion but we had, oh, Prince Andrew and Fergie as the guests of honour, and that was all pretty good.