Sea King move heralds major lifesaving exhibition* A specially-painted Sea King squeezed into the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall with millimetres to spare – ahead of a major exhibition celebrating lifesaving around the UK. The veteran helicopter – Navy red and grey on one side, RAF yellow on the other – was moved from nearby RNAS Culdrose and will the largest item at the two-year exhibition which opens on March 16.
Royal Navy, February 29, 2012 - With just that one and a half inches to spare – 38 millimetres if you prefer metric – a specially-painted Sea King was squeezed into Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum ahead of a major exhibition celebrating the deeds of those who risk their lives so others may live.
Painted the RN’s trademark red and grey on one side, and the bright yellow of the RAF lifesavers on the other, the largest object the waterfront museum has ever installed was carefully moved from RNAS Culdrose, ten or so miles away, into the exhibition halls.
The move heralds a two-year display championing all lifesaving work around the UK coast including RNLI, Coastguards and lifeguards, as well as military rescue fliers.
Accounts from some of 771 Naval Air Squadron’s famous – and also lesser-known – rescues feature in the exhibition, as do various pieces of lifesaving equipment.
The showcase, which opens on Friday March 16, is, says Lt Cdr Chris ‘Damage’ Canning, 771’s Commanding Officer, a “magnificent exhibition in recognition of the work, both past and present, of the UK’s maritime rescue services.
“The team at the museum really have done a fantastic job capturing the different organisations that stand ready at a moment’s notice to respond to an unfolding emergency on or around our coastline.”
His men and women flew 244 lifesaving sorties in 2011; their counterparts at HMS Gannet in Prestwick were scrambled 298 times last year, making them the busiest Search and Rescue unit in the land (for the fifth year running). In all, naval aviators accounted for three in every ten rescues flown by the military last year.
As for the 70ft Sea King – repainted by the technicians from Vector Aerospace with a little help from AgustaWestland who built the helicopter – she indeed is a lifesaver.
Before her impending role as a hands-on interactive exhibit at the museum, this Sea King – tail number XV663 – had a long and distinguished career in the Fleet Air Arm.
Her first flight was on April 15 1970 and she served in the Falklands War, joining other Sea Kings in the mission to rescue injured Welsh Guardsmen from the bombed RFA Sir Galahad.
Following her time in the Falklands, XV663 served at RNAS Culdrose until she was retired when newer Merlins entered service a decade ago.
“The Sea King remains the mainstay of the UK Search and Rescue helicopter service and AgustaWestland is proud to be responsible for keeping them flying 365 days a year,” explained Ray Edwards, Managing Director at AgustaWestland.
“We are also pleased to support this major exhibition which will highlight the lifesaving work carried out on a daily basis by search and rescue helicopters and the aircrew that fly them.”
Although XV663 will be static throughout the exhibition, there will be some live-action demonstrations held sporadically over the two-year run of the display.
These will include air-sea rescue practices in Falmouth Harbour – which is used regularly for training by 771 crews, based just ten miles away – ‘meet the crew’ days, and visits by RNLI all-weather lifeboats with the chance for the public to clamber aboard.
More details about the exhibition and museum in general – it’s a sister to the older, world-famous institution at Greenwich – can be found at www.nmmc.co.uk; details about the live demonstrations will be posted on the site nearer the time.
Westland Sea King HAS.1 XV663 ( Fleet Air Arm )