Joining S-51 G-AJOR for the trials was Bristol Type 171 Mk 3 prototype G-ALSR, which had been leased to BEA by Westland from November 1951 for evaluation. As the results were satisfactory, two Type 171s were ordered by BEA in July 1952; G-ALSR was returned, but rejoined the airline to become Sir Gareth in July 1953.
With the modernist windmill of the Festival of Britain’s Country Pavilion in the background representing what had been and the elegant curve of the as-yet unfinished Waterloo Air Terminal marking what was to come, G-ALSR is prepared for another flight out of the narrow confines of the South Bank site during July-August 1952.
Two days later Bristol Type 171 Mk 3 G-ALSR was flown in.
Westland-Sikorsky WS-55 G-ANUK alights in front of County Hall in 1955. Even if all eight trips a day were full, BEA would still make a loss of ?322.
On July 28, 1952, John Stroud was on hand at the former Festival of Britain site on the south bank of the Thames to capture Wg Cdr Reggie Brie landing BEA S-51 G-AJOR in the first of a series of trials.
With the remains of the futuristic Dome of Discovery in the background, Reggie Brie brings G-AJOR into the South Bank site. Brie had long been an advocate of the helicopter for city-centre operations, and had suggested floating landing platforms in the Thames as far back as the late 1930s.
Sikorsky-built S-51 G-AJOR, named Sir Owen in BEA service, was one of four operated by the airline in the early days of its helicopter fleet, and was powered by a single vertically-mounted 450 h.p. Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior B4 radial piston engine. This example served with BEA until it was sold to Autair Helicopters in July 1953.
Up, up and away - Brie lifts G-AJOR over the river towards the imposing sight of Whitehall Court on the northern bank of the Thames.
Following his initial flights in and out of the South Bank site, Brie (holding hat) left the flying to Capts “Jock” Cameron (left) and J.G. Theilmann (flying the S-51).