Royal Navy Sea King returns to original markings

By Craig Hoyle

One of the UK Royal Navy's Westland Sea King transport helicopters has emerged after being resprayed in its original delivery markings, ahead of twin celebrations to be marked by the service over the coming months.

The RN will on 7 May mark a centenary of aviation activities since it invested its first airships, while 11 August 2009 will represent the 40th anniversary of the Sea King's introduction into service, originally in the HAC1 configuration.

Assigned to the navy's 771 Naval Air Sqn search and rescue unit at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and now flown in the HU5 standard, specially marked aircraft XV648 (below) entered service in October 1969, and is the second oldest Sea King still in RN use, according to Flight's HeliCAS database.

The aircraft is due to participate in several public events this year, including "Fly Navy 100" celebrations and the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force base Fairford in Oxfordshire in mid-July. It will also continue to serve as an operational SAR asset.

The Ministry of Defence says 96 Sea Kings are still in use with the RAF and RN, and that the type has logged more than 1.3 million flight hours in UK service. Rolls-Royce last month received a £258 million ($374 million), 10-year availability-based support contract for the type's Gnome engines, while operations of the RN's Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control variant are expected to continue until around 2022.

© Reed Business Information 2009

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