Bristow Helicopters

Has Operated from c.May 1955 to Present

Main Base – Aberdeen

Founder/Director – Alan Bristow

As many who have worked within the aviation industry know, the Bristow name has ever since this company’s inception, been synonymous with helicopter operations and has generally remained as the largest operator of rotor wing aircraft in the UK. The company was founded by the rather tough and tenacious Alan Bristow who ran the business up until its complete take over in 1985 by British & Commonwealth (previous owners of BUA) who had for many years, held a considerable number of shares in the business. While this entity has owned and operated fixed wing types in the past, the bulk of Bristow’s work has generally involved offshore work, oil/gas rig support and Search & Rescue (SAR) duties worldwide using rotor-craft. Needless to say, operating in such hostile and dangerous conditions, a number of hull losses have occurred over the years, although the excellent ditching training that the company offers, has no doubt saved many a life.

As far as Southend is concerned, the airport itself has witnessed numerous visits by Bristow. While only a few flights may have occured each year, these have been taking place since the late-60s and continue up until this very day. Most of the early visits to SEN were for avionics work with ATEL and some of these recorded flights included a Westland 60 and a JetRanger which appeared during September 1968 for the fitting of auto stabilisation systems. Airframes would also be flown in to be dismantled and crated up before being dispatched to foreign climes with another JetRanger turning up in March 1969 for such treatment. Moving into the ’70s, larger types would begin to frequent SEN with S-61N VR-BDU coming in for a radio upgrade. In fact, it was the S-61 that would become the backbone of the Bristow fleet for much of the 1970s and 1980s.

More of the type arrived at ATEL during 1972 & 1973 and by 1974, Bristow had started using SEN for training purposes. However, things finally came to a head when a Bell 212 was sent to the airport in January 1975. This aircraft made so much noise that the complaints starting coming in thick and fast and as a result, this training had to be relocated elsewhere. Since this time several other types have passed through including Whirlwind, Wessex and Super Puma equipment. In 1996 the company was taken over by U.S. firm Offshore/Air Logistics although the Bristow name would eventually be revived in 2010. Due to the huge number of airframes that have at one time been part of the Bristow fleet, only those helicopters that are known or believed to have visited Southend have been listed.


Bristow Helicopters fleet from 1967 to 1997

Westland Wessex

G-AWOX* – 9/68 to 11/82

WFU and scrapped

Bell 206 JetRanger

G-AWVO*– 12/68 to 4/75

Sold in Indonesia

G-AVIH* – 3/67 to 6/84

Arr SEN as VR-BFH*– Sold in Australia

Bell 212

G-BGMF* – 12/74 to 9/80

Arr SEN as VR-BFN*– Sold in Nigeria

Sikorsky S-61

G-AZNE* – 4/72 to 4/73

Arr SEN as VR-BDU*– Fell off rig into North Sea after hard landing 4/4/73

G-BAKB*– 12/72 to 4/87

Sold in France

G-BBGS*– 8/73 to 4/87

Sold in France

Aerospatiale Super Puma

G-BMCW*– 10/85 to 4/12

Sold in the U.S

G-BMCX*– 10/85 to 5/15

Sold to Airbus Helicopters, France


Do you have any other, interesting snippets of information about this company’s SEN history or indeed, any pictures or paraphernalia that you would like to share? If so, then please contact us on

Many thanks from the SAAD Admin Team.