RAF Valley operates the Sea King in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role, and the big yellow helicopters have become a familiar sight on television news programmes as they carry out rescue operations all around the United Kingdom.
Developed by Westland from the American Sikorsky S-61, the first of 15 RAF dedicated SAR aircraft entered service in September 1977. For the next fifteen years Sea King and Wessex helicopters shared search and rescue duties until a further batch of six updated Sea King Mark 3A aircraft were ordered in 1992 to replace the SAR Wessexes.
Entered Service: 1977
Powerplant: Two Rolls-Royce H1400-1 Gnome turboshafts of 1,660shp
Rotor Diameter: 62ft 0in (18.90m)
Length: 55ft 9.75in (17.01m)
Max Speed: 143mph (230km/h) at sea level
Accommodation: Crew of four and provision for up to 19 passengers
Recognition: Long fuselage with boat-hull bottom and sponsons either side of the cabin into which the main undercarriage wheels retract. Engines mounted above the cabin with the five-blade main rotor on top. Short tail section stepped up behind the single rear wheel. Six-blade tail rotor on port side of the short stabiliser. A radar 'dustbin' is located on the top of the fuselage behind the engines.
Colours: High-visibility yellow. Squadron markings worn on the forward fuselage. Some aircraft still have a grey colour scheme and will be repainted during major servicing.
The standard operational crew comprises:
Captain: In overall command of the aircraft and flying pilot during a rescue.
Co-pilot: Aids the captain with navigation, fuel planning and radios. During transits and some rescues, the co-pilot flies the aircraft.
RadOp/WinchOp: Responsible for voice marshalling the aircraft into position and operating the radar to allow the aircraft to descend and close shipping vessels in poor weather.
Winchman: Is deployed to a casualy with the onboard hoist. He uses his extended paramedic skills to treat the casualty en-route to hospital. As a crewman he also assists the pilots with navigation, performance information and lookout.