Westland Gazelle XX401

Balnakeil, Durness, Sutherland













Aircraft Type Photo


BELOW: A British Army Westland Gazelle AH1 (Aérospatiale SA 341B) helicopter during exercise "Checkered Flag '83" at Ahlhorn air base, Lower Saxony, Germany, on 25 May 1983. [Wikipedia]


British Army Westland Gazelle AH.1 helicopter


Photo: 1983 TSgt. Dennis Plummer, U.S. Defenseimagry.mil


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.



BELOW: Main control panel of a Gazelle SA 342M liaison helicopter of the French Army's Light Aviation (ALAT).


Westland Gazelle flight controls


Photo: 2001 Eric Gaba (Sting - fr:Sting)


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.






Aircraft Type and Background


Army Air Corps (Aérospatiale) Westland Gazelle AH.I *  /  XX401


* Army Helicopter Mark 1



The Aérospatiale (formerly, Sud Aviation) Gazelle was manufactured in France. It was a single turbine engine lightweight general purpose helicopter with five seats. The aircraft was also manufactured under licence in the UK as the Westland Gazellethe type featured on this page.


The Gazelle designed included a Fenestron (fantail) instead of the more conventional tail rotor. In addition, the rotor blades were composed of composite materials.


The Westland Gazelle served with the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy (including the Royal Marines), and the British Army. The Gazelle AH.1 variant was customised for use by the [UK] Army Air Corps.


At the time of the accident, the Gazelle featured here was based on HMS Intrepid (since decommissioned)a warship which was capable of carrying 5 Westland Gazelle helicopters.



BELOW: Picture of HMS Intrepid (L11) taken in Hong Kong in 1968. HMAS Perth (D38) in background.


HMS Intrepid


Photo: 1968 'Nogginnog'


This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Nogginnog at the wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.






Aircraft Accident Details                      


Westland Gazelle XX401 was operating from the warship, HMS Intrepid. The helicopter was engaged in the exercise 'Teamwork 80' which involved service personnel from the Army Air Corps, the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and other service units.


However, while the aircraft was flying over Sutherland in northern Scotland, it crashed into a hill near the village of Balnakeil.1 The three Royal Marine personnel on board the helicopter died in this incident.



Footnote 1:


Balnakeil was built in the 1950's by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as an early warning station against nuclear attack. However, the station was never commissioned. In 1964, the ex-military buildings were made available for civilian use. Balnakeil is now a craft village.






Aircraft Crew Casualties


Those who lost their lives in this incident were:

  • Lt David C Dunn, RM,  N021199B, 45 Commando.

  • Lt Paul A T Farley, RM, N023318W, 45 Commando.

  • Lt Andrew P J MacDonald, RM, N019715T, 3 Commando Brigade HQ.





Crash Site Photos



Photo Request


If anyone is able to provide photos of this crash site  these would be much appreciated.



















Crash Date / Site



Accident Date: 15 Sep 1980


Accident Site:

Balnakeil (hill in this vicinity)


Region: Highland (Sutherland)


Nearest town or village:



Nearest large town:

None in this general area.


OS Grid Ref: N/A


GPS Ref. N/A


Present Condition: No known remains.




Aircraft Details



Registration or Serial: XX401


Operator: Army Air Corps (3 CBAS / 670 Sqdn "C1" Eagles)


Operating Station: HMS Intrepid.


Operating Station Location: Mobile (RN warship).


Current Station Status: HMS Intrepid decommissioned. Scrapped in Liverpool in 2008.

(Had been built 1962-64 by John Brown and Co., Clydebank.)



Principal airport data courtesy of John Woodside, A Catalogue of UK Airfields





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