Aircraft History

Westland Wapiti

The Westland Wapiti was a redesign of the DeHavilland 9A (DH 9A), which was the Royal Air Force's (RAF) "jack-of-all-trades" aircraft, post First World War until 1927 when it was replaced by the Wapiti. The Wapiti employed the wood and fabric wings, tail, control surfaces and struts of the DH 9A. A new deeper fuselage and new undercarriage were used while control problems resulted in a much larger fin and rudder than the DH 9A. The Wapiti was powered by a 420 horsepower Bristol Jupiter VI radial engine. The RAF's Wapitis gave magnificent though unspectacular service for more than a decade in Iraq and India.

In 1935, in response to a request from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the RAF offered six Wapiti IIA's to help modernize the RCAF's inventory of combat aircraft. The six Wapitis, built in 1930, had served in England with the RAF Auxiliary squadrons and were in far better condition than those used in the Middle East. The six aircraft cost $ 3506.40, with the total transaction for including spares, equipment, shipping and packing costing $13,914.00. The Wapitis arrived in Canada on 5 March 1936. The following year the RCAF purchased a further 18 Wapitis.

Canadian Vickers, in Montreal, was given the contract to totally reconstruct the first six Wapitis, which were given serial numbers 508 to 513. The aircraft were completely stripped, reconditioned and refinished to bring them up to first class RAF standards. To accommodate the cold weather the RCAF added a hood over both cockpits, installed a controllable oil cooler and provided cockpit heating from an exhaust muff. When the hood over the gunner's cockpit was opened during flight trials the vertical tail oscillated violently so it was removed, but the hood over the pilot's cockpit was retained. Since the RCAF intended to assign the Wapiti to No. 3 (Bomber) Squadron attachments for two universal bomb carriers were installed under each wing and a light bomb carrier was installed under the fuselage. The first six Wapitis were accepted for RCAF service in July 1937. The second batch of 18 Wapitis, numbered 527 to 544, was accepted for RCAF service in December 1938.

With war imminent in 1939 the RCAF began to mobilize its squadrons; No. 3 (Bomber) Squadron, stationed in Calgary, was ordered to its war station at Halifax. Fortunately, the government had previously (1935) embarked on a multi-year Public Works project to expand the Dartmouth seaplane base by constructing runways and additional hangars. But when 3 Squadron arrived in Halifax on 1 September 1939 after its epic cross-Canada flight, the runways and hangars at RCAF Station Dartmouth were not yet completed. Therefore, 3 Squadron and its obsolete Westland Wapitis were based at the Halifax civil airfield (located on Chebucto Road in what is now the western residential section of the city). It was planned to employ the squadron as an "air striking force" to work in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Navy, or independently, against enemy forces along the south coast of Nova Scotia. However, on arrival in Halifax the squadron learned that it had been redesignated No. 10 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron and plans were in place to transfer No. 3 Squadron personnel to two new Bomber Reconnaissance squadrons, either 10 Squadron at Dartmouth or No. 11 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Squadron at Rockcliffe.

The Wapitis were soon relegated to the maintenance training role and replaced by Douglas Digbys and Lockheed Hudsons on their coastal patrols. The last RCAF Wapiti was scrapped in late 1943.

Type: General Purpose Bomber

Wing Span:
14.15 m (46 ft 5 in)

Length:
9.65 m (31 ft 8 in)

Height:
3.61 m (11 ft 10 in)

Max. Speed:
226 kph (140 mph)

Service Ceiling:
6280 m (20,600 ft)

Range:
853 km (530 miles)

Max. Weight:
2449 kg (5,400 lb)

Empty Weight:
1728 kg (3,810 lb)

Power Plant:
One 358 kW (480 hp) Bristol Jupiter VIIIF radial piston engine

Armament : One 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Vickers synchronized machine gun and one 7.7 mm Lewis gun on scarf ring over rear cockpit, plus up to 262 kg (580 lb) of bombs.