Clive Guest was a Crew Chief at Westland and joined shortly before the Westland Affair and financial collapse of 1985/6

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Sir John Cuckney, Chairman Westland Group 1985-1992

After the World Helicopter Speed Record had been set, Clive Guest was given a congratulatory flight in G-Lynx

He remembers Sir John Cuckney being brought in to rescue the business as Chairman and suggesting the attempt on the World Helicopter Speed Record

When I was in the Erecting Shop the production was incredible. You had two lines of Lynx, there was a line of Sea Kings and also a line of Gazelles. When I first went in there it was quite common to be producing three or four Lynx and at least one Sea King a month. They were going out one after the other. It’s a completely different place now. You wouldn’t recognise or, I certainly wouldn’t recognise it now. The ethos of building a helicopter has changed with modular build.

We hadn’t realised the financial difficulty the Company was in

It was a great place to work in the 80’s. But, of course, what we hadn’t realised, when I say we, the workforce, we hadn’t realised the financial difficulty the Company was in, and how important this World Speed Record was for the Company. We’d obviously heard of Sir John Cuckney, we knew a bit about him, what had been released through the internal information coming from the Management, but we hadn’t realised really that it was so important. The message that came from Sir John was that the money houses in London like’s winners, everybody loves a winner. And that’s why, I think, he suggested the World Speed Record to Westlands. I think what had happened prior to that is Westlands had done a private venture with the WG30, which was a helicopter that was being developed for the armed forces as mainly a troop carrier. I think I’m right in saying that we had several in our hangar. They were operating from our hangar several experimental aircraft, but I think it was Operation Lionheart, which was a NATO exercise, had sort of changed the mind of the Government that the WG30 wasn’t large enough, certainly as a Sea King replacement, and it was scrapped and, of course, Westlands had ploughed a lot of money into the WG30. They went on and built a few, and I think a few went to India, a few went to British Airways, but it was actually a white elephant and I think that’s why Westlands were in so much trouble. So that’s when Sir John Cuckney was called in by the City and, like I say, the City likes winners and I think that’s exactly what he told them. At the same time you see, they realised the production of this BERP blade could get so much more performance from the aircraft, so much more lift from the blade. They were quietly confident so I think that’s probably why it all went that way. Without the BERP blades, I don’t think they would have done it, personally.

 

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