LIFE SAVING SEA KING GETS READY FOR ITS VERY PUBLIC APPEARANCE
A Sea King helicopter from RNAS Culdrose is being given a makeover, so that it is ready for a long lasting public appearance.
At the end of March when 771 Naval Air Squadron is decommissioned, the Sea King Mk 5 helicopter, which has been involved in numerous rescues around the Cornish coast, will have a new home. No longer will the aircraft, XV673 - call sign 827, reside within the 771 NAS hangar, but it will sit on a plinth just inside the Culdrose fence opposite the Cottage Hospital.
The Royal Navy’s Sea King aircraft have been an intrinsic part of the Cornish skies for decades, therefore one of the helicopters will be on public display as a permanent reminder of their role at RNAS Culdrose. It will be a lasting tribute to the enormous contribution made by Sea King helicopters to both Royal Navy operations and to the Search and Rescue service, including those personnel who have risked their lives in aid of others.
Commander Ian Fitter, Executive Commander of RNAS Culdrose said: “The Sea King was delivered to the Royal Navy in 1969 as an Anti-Submarine Warfare platform, and will continue in service here at Culdrose in the Airborne Surveillance and Control role until 2018. As such, it has been an extremely successful naval helicopter which we wish to acknowledge and commemorate. Obviously, from a local perspective, most people will associate the Sea King with Search and Rescue and 771 Naval Air Squadron, and we have been planning for some time to keep one of these MK5 helicopters and to display it in public view at Culdrose. We are now making the final preparations to make it safe and secure for display. The helicopter will act as a permanent reminder of the efforts of aircrew past and present, and the important role that the Sea King aircraft has played saving thousands of lives over the past 40 years.”
RNAS Culdrose has been working on the project with the Council and Cormac to ensure that the position of the aircraft is both highly visible and safe. Currently, the helicopter is being worked on by Royal Navy Engineers, having had a new coat of paint thanks to the Culdrose ‘Spray Bay’ which is managed by Serco.
The seven man team in the ‘Composite Repair Facility', of which the Spray Bay is a part, operate a garage with a difference, helping to ensure that airframes are fit to fly. The team has been working hard to get the Sea King ready for its public appearance in March, as Mark Thompson, who manages the section tells us: “My team has worked on the helicopter for a couple of weeks. Once we got our hands on the airframe, we sanded it down, re-primed it and then painted it back to its original state. It is always emotive when a Squadron decommissions, and it will be especially so when we say goodbye to 771. That is why I am so glad to have been involved in this project because of the impact that this aircraft has had on Cornwall and beyond.”
Martin Hunt was responsible for ensuring that the aircraft was finished according to the original drawings. Martin said: “What we have done is just like re-spraying a car, but this vehicle is a bit bigger and a lot more important! I have got a copy of the helicopter’s aircraft original drawings, and it was my job to make sure that the aircraft met that standard; everything from the paint colours, to the numbers and lettering.”
24 year old apprentice Jessica Fry, in the first year of her training with SERCO said: “It has been such an honour to work on such an important aircraft.”
The aircraft XV673 conducted its first flight on 17.9.1970 and was delivered to Culdrose 1.10.1970. It served on 826 Sqn/706 Sqn/824 Sqn/810 Sqn before eventually arriving on 771 Sqn 10/04/2003. It will be placed on display following the 771 decommissioning service on March 22nd.