Sea King squeezes through Museum’s Doors

Feb 29, 2012

Sea King squeezes through Museum’s Doors

With help from the Ministry of Defence, the Maritime Museum in Falmouth today installed its biggest object to date as part of its forthcoming Search & Rescue exhibition – a 6 tonne Sea King helicopter. The helicopter which is 70ft long and 16ft high had just 1½ inches of clearance through the Museum’s doors. The helicopter is painted the aircraft in the combined livery of both the Royal Navy and RAF Search and Rescue colours – something which has never been done or seen before.

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s new Search & Rescue exhibition is just weeks away from opening. A key feature of the exhibition, which recognises the efforts of the various maritime rescue forces who work together to save lives along the coastline of the UK, is a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter loaned to the Museum by the Ministry of Defence. Retired from service with the introduction of the Merlin Mk1 helicopter, it had been stored at a depot awaiting disposal. However, thanks to the MOD, the Royal Navy, RAF, AgustaWestland and Vector Aerospace, the Sea King now has a new lease of life.

The helicopter not only has a new home and a new role but also a new coat of paint thanks to the generous assistance of AgustaWestland. The skilled technicians at Vector Aerospace have painted the aircraft in the combined livery of both the Royal Navy (red and grey) and RAF (yellow) Search and Rescue colours to recognise the contribution that the Armed Forces have made to Search and Rescue throughout the UK.

Ray Edwards, Managing Director at AgustaWestland says: “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. 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.”

Prior to her forthcoming new role as a hands-on interactive within the Museum, this Sea King had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy. Her first flight was on 15 April 1970 and she served in the Falklands War, operating with other Sea Kings on the afternoon of 8 June 1982 when three bombs hit the RFA Sir Galahad. The ship was heavily laden with Welsh Guardsman and with significant casualties the Sea Kings worked together to winch the injured.

Following her time in the Falklands, she served at RNAS Culdrose, with many personnel who are still based there today. Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron Lt Cdr Chris ‘Damage’ Canning, who flew in the aircraft when training says: “Here at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose we are absolutely delighted to have been able to assist the Maritime Museum in assembling this 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.”

Ben Lumby, Exhibitions Manager at the Maritime Museum says: “There are a handful of staff and volunteers at the Museum who have developed the installation but behind us are teams of researchers, donors, designers, suppliers, funders…the list is endless. Without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver this exhibition and we wouldn’t be able to commemorate and celebrate the work of the maritime rescue services.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for their time and investment and look forward to opening the doors to the exhibition on Friday 16 March to see how our visitors react to this new, powerful and important exhibition.”

The new Search & Rescue exhibition at National Maritime Museum Cornwall opens on Friday 16 March.


MOD Copyright by PO (Phot) Paul A’Barrow

771 Squadron
On call 24 hours a day, every day of the year, 771 Squadron provides Search and Rescue cover across the South West. Squadron members fly across the Cornish Coastline in their red and grey Sea King helicopters on daring rescue missions, saving the lives of many in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable, often putting their own lives at risk. At 15 minutes notice by day and 45 minutes by night (although they usually get airborne in less), the Squadron is capable of operating within a 200 nautical mile radius of Culdrose. They carry out over 200 rescues a year, ranging from long range medical evacuation from ships at sea, assistance to vessels in distress, to the safe recovery of stranded cliff fallers, swimmers, divers and surfers. The Squadron also helps with hospital-to-hospital transfers, road traffic accidents and assisting the police with aerial searches for missing people.