The British Air Ministry issued Specification F.37/35 in October of 1935. The Air Staff was looking for a single seat day and night fighter capable of 330 mph at 15,000 ft. For Westland Aircraft, Mr. William E. W. Petter drew up the P.9. The P.9 was a compact twin engined aircraft of advanced design. It was very aerodynamically clean with an early version of the ‘bubble’ canopy. It was as fast as the Spitfire and Bf 109 at low level but early operations revealed problems with its Peregrine engines and performance fell off above 10,000 ft. Unfortunately Rolls Royce was totally engaged in the development and production of the Merlin and the Peregrine never had the chance to reach its potential. Westland had problems getting the Whirlwind into production and these delays meant that the RAF only equipped two squadrons with it. With engines at a developmental dead end and a production run of only 114 airframes, the Whirlwind was doomed to a short career. The RAF declared the Whirlwind obsolescent on January 1,1944.

       The Westland Whirlwind day fighter design was initiated in 1936 along with designs from Bristol and Hawker to an Air Staff specification F.37/35. In February of 1937, Westland received an order to build two prototypes of their P.9 design. They were assigned RAF serials L6844/L6845.

       William E.W. “Teddy” Petter came up with a design that was very advanced for its time. The airframe was very clean aerodynamically. The Rolls Royce Peregrine V-12 engines were fitted to smooth cowlings. The fuselage cross section was as compact as possible. The cooling radiators were mounted on the wing leading edge between the fuselage and the engines. This was the same location that De Havilland used when developing the DH 98 Mosquito. The original exhausts exited through the wing behind the engine but this later proved to be a bad idea. Armament was 4 x 20mm cannons mounted in the nose. Later two hard points were installed in the wings to carry bombs. The pilot was seated under a clear ‘teardrop’ canopy for excellent vision all around. The original tail configuration was a twin fin, but wind tunnel testing revealed problems so the tail was changed an unusual ‘T’ configuration. Later flight tests showed this configuration to be troublesome also.

       Delays in the program began from the beginning. Sub-contractor component delivery slips delayed the first prototype airframe, L6844. Taxi trials revealed problems with the engines overheating. The designer and Rolls-Royce differed on cooling requirements for the engines. The first flying trials also revealed problems with tail buffeting. Deciding if the engines needed to be ‘handed’ caused a major delay. Flight testing showed no handling difference. As Westland struggled to fix these problems, the RAF was getting anxious to get the aircraft into production. First tests at Boscombe Down by A&AEE pilots were mostly favorable but there were still a list of complaints. The RAF told Westland that an order for 200 aircraft balanced on quick resolution of problems. Westland optimistically gave the RAF a nine month time line to full production.

       Problems with the Peregrine engines continued, tail induced buffeting continued and on June 10, 1939 test flight, Westland pilot Harald Penrose experienced problems, which almost caused him to lose control of the aircraft. He was able to get the plane down and examination of the starboard wing showed that the through wing exhaust had failed and by luck did not burn into the wing fuel tank or thru the main spar. More delays were incurred as the engine exhausts and cowlings were modified to a more conventional configuration. Tail modifications also continued. Testing also revealed that the Peregrine engines showed a serious reduction in power at altitude. Rolls Royce was at this time also heavily involved with the Merlin engine and staff and production allocations limited the Peregrine. In August of 1939, Rolls Royce notified the RAF and Westland of its intentions to concentrate on the Merlin and cancel other engine programs including the Peregrine.

       As the war in Europe began in September 1939, the RAF gave a go-ahead for only 114 Whirlwinds. Rolls Royce confirmed they would build enough Peregrine engines to cover those airframes and that would be it.

       Finally, on May 22, 1940, the first production Whirlwind P6966 flew. It had been almost 5 years from the issuing of the original F.37/35 specification. The handicap of poor performance at altitude prompted the RAF to have the Whirlwind assigned to a low level role.

       RAF 263 SQ was the first to be equipped with the Whirlwind, starting in July 1940. The build-up to squadron strength took until December due to engine delivery and overheating problems. Finally on January 12, 1941, two 263SQ. Whirlwinds intercepted a Ju88. P/O Stein was credited a “probable”. By the summer, enough Whirlwinds had been delivered to form a second squadron. On September 20,1941, 137SQ. was formed from a cadre of 263 pilots. Both squadrons began low level ops against shipping in the Channel and sweeps over France against Luftwaffe airfields. In August of 1942, P6997 was sent to A&AEE to evaluate carrying bombs. The “Whirlibomber” was accepted for use.

       In June of 1943, 137SQ. stood down to convert to Hawker Hurricane IVs. Some of their aircraft were transferred to 263 SQ. On November 29, 1943, S/L Baker led 263’s last Whirlwind sortie. 263SQ. then stood down to convert to Hawker Typhoons. All remaining aircraft were transferred to No.18 MU and eventually scrapped.

       There are no surviving Whirlwinds. P6994 was sent to the United States for evaluation and was last seen at NAS Pensacola, FL in the fall of 1944. P7048 had been damaged and returned to the factory for repair. It did not return to operations and Westland “civilianized” it, registered it as G-AGOI and used it as a company ‘hack’ after the war. It survived until May of 1947 when it was scrapped.

       For a 1935 specification, “Teddy” Petter had come with a very advanced design. Trying to develop a new aircraft with only two prototypes was not a good idea. Using the Rolls Royce Peregrine engine was not a good idea. It was the classic, mostly bad situation of a new airframe and a new engine. With proper support or a change to the Merlin engine, the Whirlwind could have become a world class design. The 20mm cannon armament, the teardrop canopy and the radiator location were to become commonplace by war’s end. Mr. Petter left Westland and went to English Electric where he designed the Canberra jet bomber and the Lightning supersonic jet interceptor. He left English Electric in 1950. He went to Folland and designed the lightweight Midge and Gnat series of jet aircraft.

       This kit was built during the time of SEPAF in the early 1980’s. During this time I was removing all raised panel lines on my kits and rescribing them with an X-Acto. This kit is also my first real intense attempt to scratch build a cockpit. It was the first kit I painted with water based paint. I drilled out the cannon barrels and added aerials from stretched clear sprue.

       The kit decals are for P7102, SF-P of 137SQ. It carried the inscription “Comrades in Arms”. It was a presentation aircraft sponsored by a Mr. and Mrs. Ellis of Fiji, Matlaske in June 1942. This aircraft was finished in the new day fighter scheme of Dark Green and Mixed Grey upper surfaces with Medium Sea grey under surfaces, Sky band, spinners and codes. Yellow recognition stripes on wing leading edge.

       Every book and article in my reference library seemed to show the same picture of P6969, HE-V of 263SQ. I decided to pull out the decal stash and do that one. This aircraft was finished in the earlier day fighter scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth and Sky under surfaces. Orders to re-introduce the all black port wing was ordered on November 27, 1940. This order would normally include the port nacelle under surfaces. The famous photo of P6969 is not dated and at the angle it is taken, the underside of the port nacelle is not black and the wing undersurface can not be seen. So, I did not paint the port wing undersurfaces black back in the 80’s.

       Recently as I was cleaning the kit up to display, I consulted my current references to discover that the much reproduced photo was part of a larger photo shoot taken in December of 1940. All three aircraft in the photos including P6969 appear to have black port undersurfaces. So, I masked off the roundel and fixed it. Now my version of P6969 is wicked accurate!

      

Bibliography:

       Westland Whirlwind Mk.I Fighter,Mk.I Fighter-Bomber

                         Authors : Michal Ovcacik, Karel Susa

                         Pub : Mark I Ltd.

                         ISBN : 80-902559-6-5

       Aeroplane Monthly Vol. 34/No.5

                         Aeroplane Database: The Westland Whirlwind

                         Author: Derek James

                         ISSN: 0143-7240

       Camouflage & Markings RAF Fighter Command 1939-1945

                         Authors: James Goulding, Robert Jones

                         Pub: Ducimus Books Ltd., Doubleday & Company Inc.

                         ISBN: N/A

       Scale Aircraft Modelling Vol.14/No 12

                         Aircraft In Detail: Westland’s Fighter Pair

                         Author: Allan W. Hall

                         ISSN: N/A

       Camouflage & Markings No 2

                         The Battle For Britain – RAF May to December 1940

                         Author: Paul Lucas

                         Pub: Guideline Publications Ltd.

                         ISBN: 0-9539040-0-8

       Fly Past,October 2008 No.327

                         In Focus | Westland Whirlwind

                         Author: Tony Buttler

                         Pub: Key Publishing Ltd.

                         ISSN: N/A

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