Don Berrington was Managing Director of the Helicopters Division at Westland. He remembers the Westland Affair of 1985/6 when a cancelled order by the Indian government for the WG 30 sent the company into financial meltdown

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WG 30 in use with PAN AM in New York

I was dealing with the military side in MEBG and the civil organisation run by Tom Breman, I’ve remember his name now, Tom Breman, they were dealing with civil. They had obtained from the ONGC, ONGC being the Oil and Natural Gas Company of India, a Letter of Intent to purchase perhaps twelve, a reasonable number anyway of WG30s and the company, very unwisely it seems, ordered all the bits and pieces, started buying engines and scheduling this, that and the other for these aircraft but it turned out that the Letter of Intent had no legal meaning whatever and the ONGC just prevaricated and at the end of the day it became clear that these aircraft were never going to be delivered. In the meantime, the Government which had loaned something like thirty million pounds to get the WG30 production up and running were beginning to ask questions about how it was going to be paid … this is the UK government yes? Yes, the UK government. So, that really got itself into real financial straits. Bristow made a bid for the company as a whole, which was interesting, especially as he’d recently offered me a job so I felt a little bit safer than some people in the circumstances but his bid was rejected because he had strings attached. He wanted a guaranteed order from the British government for so many helicopters and he wanted the thirty-million launch aid written off, which, of course, the government refused so he sort of disappeared from the thing. Then began the argument about, well what about tying up with Sikorski and Agusta, although originally Sikorski, Fiat and Hanson I think were the companies that were involved originally and Sir John Cuckney was a wonderful man, he was a really, really capable, but he was also a very nice man, and he knew his way round industry, had saved a number of failing industries. He knew his way around government. He knew his way around politics and he really steered this thing through. So, we had him at the helm of the main Board steering us through. We had Hugh Stewart, who was a pretty dour individual, but nevertheless was a good financial manager. He was stopping up the holes in our bucket everywhere he could. I was trying to do the day-to-day things and keep things running and it was quite helpful that I was well known and I knew the company well and I knew individuals in the company. There was hardly anywhere where I didn’t have pretty good knowledge of what was going on.

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