Alan Bristow: Helicopter Pioneer: The Autobiography

Alan Bristow: Helicopter Pioneer: The Autobiography

Alan Bristow

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 1848842082

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Alan Bristow, founder of Bristow Helicopters, died on April 26, 2009, seven days after completing his autobiography. He was a truly remarkable man; his full-page obituary was published in The Times and The Daily Telegraph. As a merchant navy officer cadet during the war Bristow survived two sinkings, played a part in the evacuation of Rangoon and was credited with shooting down two Stukas in North Africa. He joined the Fleet Air Arm and trained as one of the first British helicopter pilots, he was the first man to land a helicopter on a battleship and became Westland’s first helicopter test pilot. Sacked for knocking out the sales manager, he flew in France, Holland, Algeria, Senegal and elsewhere, narrowly escaping many helicopter crashes before winning the Croix de Guerre evacuating wounded French soldiers in Indochina. For four years he flew for Aristotle Onassis’s pirate whaling fleet in Antarctica before joining Douglas Bader and providing support services to oil drillers in the Persian Gulf. Out of that grew Bristow Helicopters Ltd, the largest helicopter company in the world outside America

Bristow’s circle included the great helicopter pioneers such as Igor Sikorsky and Stan Hiller, test pilots like Harold Penrose and Bill Waterton, Sheiks and Shahs and political leaders, business giants like Lord Cayzer and Freddie Laker – with whom he tossed a coin for £67,000 in 1969 – and the author James Clavell, a lifelong friend whose book 'Whirlwind' was a fictionalized account of Bristow’s overnight evacuation of his people and helicopters from revolutionary Iran. Bristow represented Great Britain at four in hand carriage driving with the Duke of Edinburgh and precipitated the ‘Westland Affair’ when he made a takeover bid which eventually led to the resignation of Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittain, and almost to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.

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importance, but getting to him seemed impossible. Fortunately Alan Green had made the most unusual contact who was destined to help us enormously. Green told me about him one day when we were discussing the Kuwaiti issue. ‘He’s very well connected,’ Green said. ‘He’ll help you get to Mubarak.’ ‘What does this man do?’ I asked. ‘Is he family?’ ‘No, he owns a corner shop.’ I couldn’t hide my incredulity. ‘What do you mean, a corner shop?’ ‘More of a tobacconists really,’ said Green. ‘I think

helicopters flying for BP in the Forties Field on a rolling contract, and they got an excellent service. Then one day I had a call from Basil. ‘Alan, the partners think we should give somebody else a chance to provide a helicopter service,’ he said. ‘Have I done anything wrong?’ I asked. ‘No, but you know how it is – they always think somebody else is offering a better deal.’ I suspect British Airways had been getting around the BP directors and whispering in their ears. I put in a bid, and

Westland, chief draughtsman Tony Yates and John Perkins, head of the jig-tool department. Getting to work without a car wasted a lot of time for all of us, so I decided to use my expense account to buy a four-door Oldsmobile, which was advertised for sale at the Sikorsky factory as the property of the wife of one of the Sikorsky designers. The running costs were largely subsidised by Yates and Perkins, who contributed handsomely as if it were a taxi. Presiding over the factory was the great Igor

rather like the idea that I’m getting up some people’s arseholes. Leave it as it is.’ So G-ANAL it remained. The Daily Express employed Alan Green, one of the Naval pilots I had trained on the R-4 at Portland, to fly the helicopter and I gave him some lessons at Yeovil. Some months later I received a phone call from Quintin Hogg QC, later Lord Hailsham, who had been retained by Lord Beaverbrook to defend Alan Green against a charge of dangerous low flying. Would I appear as an expert witness? I

had been amputated above the knee, one below. I put his legs on an embankment at the side of the green and parked his trolley next to them. ‘How far is it back to the clubhouse?’ Douglas asked. ‘It’s about 200 yards over there,’ I said. ‘Can you give me a fireman’s lift?’ I never knew a man with no legs could weigh so much. He was all muscle. I hefted him over my shoulders and staggered off through a copse. We came to a greenkeeper’s hut. ‘Let’s stop here for a breather,’ I suggested. ‘No,

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