An immediate inspection of the gearboxes of the United Kingdom’s fleet of Westland Sea King helicopters was initiated at the end of November after the emergency landing on October 13 by a search and rescue (SAR) Sea King helicopter in Scotland.
The Royal Navy Sea King Mk5 (ZA130) helicopter, based at HMS Gannet, at Prestwick airport in Scotland, developed a gearbox problem while on a training flight in the mountainous area of Glencoe. The crew immediately decided to set the aircraft down and investigate further. It was subsequently decided that the aircraft could not be flown back to its base.
Chinook extracting a SAR Sea King. Photo courtesy UK Royal Air Force
Due to the remoteness of the location in which the Sea King went down, and with the option of recovering the helicopter by road ruled out, Royal Navy maintainers were called to strip down the aircraft to prepare it for extraction by a Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook Mk3 from RAF Odiham (no doubt with some friendly banter between crews regarding the need for the lift).
Addressing a question posed to him in the House of Commons, Phllip Dunne, Minister for Defense Equipment, Support and Technology (DE&S) said that as a result of the incident, all of the MoD’s Sea Kings would be subject to an inspection regime focused on the helicopter’s gearbox.
The entire MoD Sea King fleet is due to be retired by the end of 2016.
Related: Search and Rescue News