Back in 2018 we had the pleasure of meeting Terry Martin, owner and operator of Westland Wasp HAS1 XT787.
Despite growing up in Portsmouth and in a navy family, Terry (aka ‘Doc’) never had the ambition to go to sea. As a child he was drawn to aviation, but also wanted a career in medicine! It seemed that the option of being a Medical Officer Pilot in the RAF would make it possible to learn to fly and to be a doctor. Terry studied medicine at University College London and initially learned to fly at the University of London Air Squadron. He qualified as a pilot (PPL) and as a doctor within two months of each other in 1981 and soon qualified as a Flight Medical Officer.
He spent the next ten years on active RAF duty with tours at Shawbury, Belize, Gütersloh, Farnborough and Al Jubayl, seeing active duty as the CO of a large medevac unit in the 1991 Gulf War (Op Granby). This was followed by a further 17 years as a reservist in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, serving at Hullavington, Lyneham and Akrotiri – during the 2003 Iraq conflict (Op Telic). During his career Terry was fortunate to receive training in the De Havilland Chipmunk, Scottish Aviation Bulldog, BAC Jet Provost and even a few hours in the two-seat BAe Harrier T4A. It was the Harrier experience that convinced Terry that VTOL, STOL and hovering were much more fun than flying fast! Realising that he was past his sell-by date for Harrier training, he learned to fly the Westland Aerospatiale Gazelle at RAF Shawbury, followed by later experience on the Westland Aerospatiale Puma with 230 Squadron at Gütersloh in Germany and 1563 Flight (33 Squadron) in Belize. During his 29 years in the Royal Air Force, Terry reached the rank of Wing Commander and, in addition to aerospace medicine (NASA’s Space Scientist of the year in 1997), he specialised in emergency medicine, intensive care medicine and aeromedical evacuation.
He now works as a consultant in anaesthesia and critical care, as well as being the Medical Adviser of an international air ambulance company. Terry has privately owned and flown several Westland Wasps since 2000 and still flies as a display pilot in the UK.
His chosen mount is the unique first generation jet engine Naval helicopter, the Westland Wasp, serial number XT787.
She rolled off the production line at the Fairey division of Westland Helicopters at Hayes on 10th January 1967 and made her first flight on 19th January 1967. In her Royal Navy career, XT787 (as ‘476’) operated on frigates HMS Leander and HMS Rhyl (as part of 829 Sqn,) and also later with 703 Sqn (Portland).
After being retired in 1981, the Royal Navy’s Wasp helicopters were offered a final swansong during the Falklands campaign when RN Wasps were brought out of storage for deployment on Leander, Tribal and Rothesay class frigates which were too small to carry the Lynx helicopter which replaced the Wasps on the newer ships of the fleet.
However, in October 1982, not long after the cessation of hostilities in the Falkland Islands, she was struck off charge from the Royal Navy and, because of her excellent condition and low hours (679:40 total flying hours in RN) she was transferred to New Zealand where, until 1997, she served as part of the RNZAF but in service with RNZN as NZ3905.
On being withdrawn from RNZN service in March 2002, NZ3905 was sold back to Westlands and was subsequently bought by Kennet Aviation and registered as G-KAXT. With MoD approval, G-KAXT was again remarked as XT787, and repainted in the South Atlantic camouflage scheme of Wasp XS527. This was the famous Wasp helicopter of HMS Endurance Flight (829 Sqn) that fired the missiles that severely damaged the Argentine submarine Santa Fe at Grytviken in South Georgia in May 1982.
In Nov 2012, Kennet Aviation sold XT787 to Terry Martin a former RAF doctor and pilot who now maintains her in this historic camouflage paint scheme and is proud to keep alive the memory of this distinguished first generation military jet helicopter and to represent the many crews who served in Westland Wasps during more than 30 years of naval service. However, in a sense, XT787 became truly tri-service for a while, being flown by Terry, a former RAF Wing Commander, and being based for 3 years at the Headquarters of the Army Air Corps at Middle Wallop in Hampshire until August 2015.
This superbly agile and very unique navy helicopter is put through its paces by display pilot Terry. His display routine can be 5, 10 or 15 minutes long and is conducted safely, within all current air show regulations, and yet at low level (surface to 100 ft) and therefore close enough to the crowd display line to be both an exciting visual and audible spectacle. The sound of the Wasp’s Rolls Royce Nimbus jet engine is just as iconic as its appearance.
The Wasp is also available for fly-ins, fly-pasts, and ground static displays alone. This classic 1960s helicopter is an ideal addition to any village fete, charity event, museum open-day or whatever.