The Sea King. Due to be retired in 2016, this helicopter has saved many many lives at sea. It has served as a search and rescue helicopter for years, as well as playing it’s part at war.
It is the helicopter that Prince William pilots and he and the helicopter hit the news last year when he saved two girls from drowning.
The Sea King first flew in 1969 and was originally used for anti-submarine missions. It has also served as troop transport and an airborne early warning system platform (using radar). It is a reliable, adaptable and hardy aircraft. The BBC recently showed a documentary (The Sea King; Britain’s flying past, BBC2) about it and detailed how one particular aircraft was shot three times (it was hit in the rotor, the tail and just behind the cockpit on three separate occasions) during it’s service, but it was repaired and carried on.
The Sea King is being retired in 2016 and the search and rescue job is being privatised and taken over by the Merlin helicopter.
I saw the Sea King at Eastbourne Airbourne last year and consider myself lucky to have done so. I hope it will continue displaying, but at least I have seen it live once, if not again.
The Sea King has touched many lives and it’s sad to see it go. Thank you to all those who have served with the Sea King for doing such a good job. There are a few years yet to go and I’m sure the Sea King will not go quietly.
There are concerns about how the new privatised service will be, especially with different aircraft being used, less experienced civilian crews, base closures and different rules. I hope the new service will be as effective and I wish the new crews well.