IT REALLY IS GOODBYE TO THE OLD GIRL
Today the “Jungly” Sea King Mk4 helicopters of the Commando Helicopter Force flew for the final time at a parade held at the Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton. Simultaneously, 848 Naval Air Squadron, which flies the Jungly Sea King, was decommissioned at the same parade.
Taking the salute was the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Ben Key. Among those in attendance was Major General Richard Felton, Commander Joint Helicopter Command. Speaking affectionately of the Sea King Mk4, Admiral Key said that ‘what the aircraft and the Jungly Sea King stands for is an astonishing chapter in the Fleet Air Arm and Naval aviation. An aircraft designed in the 1960’s and still flying today has flown to Mars and back in air miles. Everyone, past and present involved with the aircraft can be proud to part this story’.
Commander Gavin Simmonite, Commanding Officer 848 Naval Air Squadron flew his last flight in one of his Squadron’s Sea King Mk 4’s on Monday’s celebratory and well reported fly past. He now leaves the Royal Navy for pastures new. After today’s parade he could be seen having a quiet private moment of reflection, pausing and looking at the three Sea King that flew past over the parade, as they taxied to a halt on the flight line. What memories he must be taking with him.
The iconic Sea King goes out of service having been involved in most major theatres of conflict where British forces have been deployed; in particular it will be remembered for its operational work during the Falklands conflict, Sierra Leone, Iraq and latterly Afghanistan. The mighty Sea King will also be remembered by many for its work with the United Nations in Bosnia and its humanitarian support work in the Lebanon, West Africa, Philippines and the Caribbean.
Although 848 Naval Air Squadron has now disbanded, the mantle and legacy of the Sea King will be picked up and carried forward by the Merlin, which is already in service with the Commando Helicopter Force. The Merlin has big boots to fill as the Sea king has made a particular mark in the psyche of the Fleet Air Arm and Commando Helicopter Force. However, as Commander Gavin Simmonite, Commanding Officer of 848 Naval Air Squadron said nothing stands still and everything moves on. The Sea King has been a wonderful workhorse; it is a great pleasure to fly and an aircraft that has created a thousand memories for the aircrews who have flown it and for those on the ground watching it go about its business. It just doesn’t get any better!