Recently the Westland Sea King helicopter was retired from service in Australia and it appears that all, bar one example have been disposed of overseas, with some parts and wreckage also extant at Nowra, NSW Australia.
It is unusual that an aircraft with such an extensive and productive 35 years of service to the nation is only remembered through the allocation of a single airframe to the Royal Australian Navy, Fleet Air Arm Museum (RANFAAM) at Nowra.
The Europeans take a different view of preserving their Sea King helicopters. On my recent trip to Europe I noted a number Sea Kings still in service and a number already preserved.
One very effective display was in Falmouth, Cornwall UK at the National Maritime Museum where a Royal Navy Sea King HAS. 1 (XV663) was put on display as part of a search and rescue display in 2012.
The aircraft is finished in RN search and rescue colors (Red and Grey) on one side and RAF rescue colors (all yellow) on the other.
It carries its RN serial on both sides much to the chagrin of RAF members no doubt. On the day of our visit to the Museum it was announced that Prince William was to cease flying the RAF version that week, so it was a very timely visit. Visitors to the museum are able to tour the aircraft which still contains all its operational equipment and it is an excellent exhibit.
In the collection of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford UK is a Royal Navy Sea King (XV712) Ex 814 Sqn RN, another great display in ‘tiger stripe’ Squadron markings.
At the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton UK is Sea King HAS.5 (XZ574), a Falklands war veteran displayed in a period correct 1982 blue color scheme as she would have been during the conflict.
Further afield, in Italy near Milan in the Volandia Museum collection is Agusta / Agusta-Bell Italy built, SH-3D Sea King (AS-61), MM5021N of the Italian Navy, again accessible and very well preserved.
These are just a small sample of the wide range and number of Sea King helicopters on display and in service in Europe.
It is to be hoped that one day in the future one or two of the Ex RAN aircraft recently re-exported to the UK come back to Australia to form exhibitions here to commemorate the sterling service they provided to this country.
© John Parker 2013