FALMOUTH MUSEUM SAYS FAREWELL TO ICONIC SEA KING
TheMaritimeMuseuminFalmouthis waving a fond Cornish farewell to one of its most popular exhibits in its history.
It was in February 2012 that the iconic Sea King helicopter (XV 663), was inched through the museums’ main doors to become its biggest ever exhibit. Distinctly painted in a combined livery of both the Royal Navy and RAF Search and Rescue colours, it has been the star of the museum for the past three years. During that time on show to the public over half a million people have climbed all over her and interacted with engineers and aircrew who have periodically manned the exhibition. But now it time to make way for the next exhibit to the valued floor space.
The 70 feet long, 16 feet high sixtonneSeaking was “squeezing” out of the museum’s vast doors with only 1.5 inches of “give” space available to manoeuvre her through. She will now be transported to The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton for a new exhibition inSomerset.
Prior to becoming the celebrity at the museum as a hands-on interactive exhibit, Sea King XV 663 had a long and distinguished naval career. Her first flight was on April 15 1970 and she served in the Falklands War with 825 Naval Air Squadron. The Aircraft proved her worth on the afternoon of June 8 1982 when operating with other Sea Kings she went to the aid of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship Sir Galahad. Three bombs had scored hits on the heavily laden RFA Sir Galahad and XV 663 was one of the rescuers of the significant casualties from the Welsh Guards, who were waiting to disembark. Following her war service in theFalklands, she operated at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose on 820 NAS until 2000.
“The Search and Rescue exhibition has been absolutely brilliant,” said Ben Lumley, National Maritime Museum of Cornwall’s exhibition manager. “The Sea King has been our Star for the past three years and this exhibition has brought a real life and energy to the museum. It’s really sad to see her go; the Sea King is an amazing piece of the country’s heritage.”
Lieutenant Commander Andy Watts from 771 SAR Naval Air Squadron, was on hand to see her being loaded up on the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS) trailer. “It’s been great helping the museum out, telling the SAR story. It is sad to see her go, but you have to remember it’s a 45 year old aircraft and we have new Merlins and Wildcats entering service, which is the way forward when the New Carriers enter service.”
As the museum’s hugely successful Search & Rescue exhibition closes, the helicopter is being moved to HMS Sultan, nearPortsmouthbefore starting a new life at theFleetAirArmMuseumat Yeovilton.