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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


NEWS

ALDERGROVE 'GATE GUARDIAN' ENDS ITS DAY BEHIND BARS

14 January 2019

In 2002 the Wessex Helicopter was retired after nearly 40-years having seen active service all over the world including the Falkland Islands. One of these iconic aircraft was retained as ‘Gate Guardian’ for the Station HQ at Aldergrove and there it has sat since 2003. Now after fifteen-years it’s on the move to its final resting place behind bars at the Crumlin Road Jail.

The helicopter, registration XR 529 ‘ECHO’, was part of a batch of 30 HC2s built by Westland Aircraft Ltd at Yeovil, Somerset and delivered between February 1963 and December 1964.

Used as a troop carrier, the aircraft was operated by a detachment of 72 Squadron, who were based at RAF Aldergrove from 1969 as part of the Support Helicopter Detachment the “Ulster Flight”.

In 1981, 72 Squadron moved to RAF Aldergrove on a permanent basis and remained there until 2002. In 2002, 72 Squadron was disbanded, and the Wessex helicopters were retired from service.

RAF Northern Ireland Community Relations Officer Wing Commander Tara Scott said: “At the end of the Royal Air Force’s centenary year, we are pleased that the Wessex is moving to a new home where it will be on display to the public. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn the history of a helicopter that served the RAF for over 40 years from 1961 to 2002 including in a search and rescue role.”

Phelim Devlin, Director at Crumlin Road Gaol commented “After several months of planning we are excited to finally see the Wessex arrive at Crumlin Road Gaol. The Wessex Helicopter will play an important part in the next phase of development at the jail.”