An unexpected RAF100 Star? – Flying Bulls Bristol Sycamore

If you’d told me six months ago I would be driving three hours across the country for my first trip to the Cosford airshow looking forward to seeing a helicopter above almost everything else on the incredible flying programme, I’d have probably laughed to say the least!


Well, there I was, there were plenty of other highlights on the programme of course, such as the Historic Aircraft Collections debut away display from Duxford, but the Sycamore really captured the spirit of the anniversary celebrations and presented something different. The anticipation of the regular updates of this historic airframes journey across Europe was comparable to watching various warbirds make their way to Legends in the past.


The Sycamore is well and truly an historic aircraft in its own right, with the initial design first taking to the skies in 1947, the type therefore represents the first production helicopter to see service with the RAF. Interestingly this machine is powered by an Alvis Leonardies engine, the same type as used in the Percival Pembroke and Provost.


Red Bulls example has been left in the wonderful RAF paint-scheme it would have worn in service and looks incredible. The Sycamore is certainly an interesting looking design with an unmistakable look. Head on the machines bug eyed appearance and wall to wall glass makes for an imposing sight.


The Sycamore dominated the flightline at Cosford and its display slot was keenly anticipated and the unusual sound of a radial kicking into life before the rotors started to spin marked the start of the sequence. The Sycamore carefully lifted into the air and progressed through that initial phase of rotary flight that always appears as gravity well and truly fighting those rotor blades before effortlessly turning into its display.


A classically graceful performance followed close into the crowd with that unusual combination of low speed helicopter flight with that distinctive radial engine sound. All too soon the Sycamore was returning back to its space on the flightline.


The Sycamore’s UK tour continued with a stay at the Helicopter Museum at Weston-Super-Mare and a visit to the Bristol Aero Collection at Filton. The Sycamore also took part in the airshow at Yeovilton and static display at Fairford.


The finale to the Flying Bulls UK tour was the weekend display at Farnborough. Here again the Sycamore made a great impression. Being a rotary machine it had the benefit of being able to display lower and closer to the crowd than most types those days.


I must admit to feeling more than a little disappointed when Flying Bulls posted this picture of the Sycamore heading back over the south coast the morning after Farnborough. An unexpected highlight that certainly opened my eyes to the concept of vintage helicopters. There is always something knew to appreciate in the world of historic aviation!

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