Australia’s navy decommissions iconic Sea Kings
December 16, 2011 By Carey Fredericks
Dec. 16, 2011, Sydney, Aus. - The last three Sea King helicopters yesterday made their final flight over Sydney before returning to the HMAS Albatross navy base where they will be formally decommissioned today.
The navy has been forced to farewell the old workhorses that spent 35 years in the skies, after the Nias Island tragedy in Indonesia seven years ago killed nine navy personnel in a Sea King crash.
One of the helicopters will remain in a museum in Nowra while the others will be sold.
The Sea Kings saw combat in Iraq and East Timor, provided disaster relief to Somalia, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, fought raging Sydney bushfires and saved hundreds of struggling survivors caught in the Queensland floods.
Since 1975 when they came into service, 13 Sea Kings served with the Royal Australian Navy, spending more than 60,000 hours in the sky.
On April 2, 2005, disaster struck the 817 Squadron when it lost one of its Sea Kings during a relief operation to save Indonesian people following a devastating earthquake.
"The Sea King – call-sign Shark 02 – launched from HMAS Kanimbla in response to a report that villagers in Amandraya on the island of Nias were in urgent need of medical assistance," a defence spokesman said.
"The aircraft had on board a full crew. Concerns were raised when communications were lost between it and another Sea King operating in the area, Shark 21."
Shark 21 reported that Shark 02 had crashed at the village that needed its help. "Nine of the Sea King's crew were killed and two personnel were seriously injured. This was a devastating blow to the close-knit 817 Squadron and naval aviation community," the spokesman said.
The Sea Kings will be replaced with the new Eurocopter MRH-90 after a review of naval aviation after the crash.
In the final flight, the Sea Kings travelled from HMAS Albatross over Sydney Harbour then returned to Nowra.
Commander Paul Moggach of 817 Squadron said his most important deployment was search and rescue operations during the Queensland floods in January.
"It was some of the most horrendous weather I have ever flown in," he said.