Regular readers will remember that we reported last year on the ongoing retirement of the Westland Sea King Helicopter from UK service. There will still be opportunities to see some of these long serving and capable aircraft in coming years but as spare parts run down and replacement aircraft such as the Agusta Westland Merlin HM1 and the MH 90 enter service. In the UK it appears that the last of the Sea Kings will be retired in 2018. This will mean that upon final retirement the Sea King in all of its variants will have served nearly 50 years. Quite an achievement for such a complex and high maintenance beast!
This year I again travelled to the UK and saw quite a few Sea Kings still pottering about in service and in Museums. A real highlight was witnessing the display of some of the Royal Navy Commando versions the HC 4, at the Yeovalton Air Day.
The aircraft took part in a mock rescue mission supported by Westland Lynx and Westland Wildcat (The Lynx’s replacement).
As demonstrations of helicopter assaults go, this was one of the most impressive I have seen and the airmanship of the crews was excellent. It is easy to see why the crews are very reluctant to give up these very well regarded machines. The aircraft not only demonstrated the ability to maneuver precisely but also their steady formation flying was excellent. One aircraft even demonstrated its load carrying ability by lifting a “captured” Landover.
This was probably the last time I will get to see the Commando variant in action as the Westland Merlin takes over the role but it was something to remember none the less.
Also on display at Yeovilton were several Search and Rescue variants and the maintenance hanger displayed another mix of versions undergoing work. Yeovilton is still a major center for the Sea King operations and will remain so for a few years to come yet.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is also centered at Yeovilton and a Sea King is on display already in the collection and in the years to come no doubt several more of various versions will also be added to the collection.
© John Parker 2014