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Last Belgian air force Sea Kings become ‘Flying Museums’ in the UK

Today the last two Belgian air force Sea King helicopters will leave the air force base at Koksijde (West Flanders) bound for the UK, where they will feature in historic air shows and serve as 'flying museums'.  Over the years Belgium’s five Sea King helicopters flew 3,309 rescue missions taking 30 people to safety off the Herald of Free Enterprise during the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in 1987.

The Belgian defence department retired the Sea King from active duty in 2019 after over 40 years in service.  Brecht Vandecasteele, who flew on Sea Kings for thirteen years, was instrumental is rescuing the two remaining specimens from the knacker’s yard and convinced Britain’s Historic Helicopters to buy the two last iconic choppers.

“We’ve been working round the clock to get the helicopters in shape for their flight to England.  Soon the aircraft will feature in air shows displaying historic aircraft”.

Vandecasteele started as a helicopter technician and moved on to become a chopper pilot.  He has also flown the Sea King successor NFH-90: “These are extremely modern craft and a worthy successor to the Sea King, but they still need to prove themselves.  We flew 3,300 interventions on Sea Kings and rescued 1,750 people.  The NFH-90 will have to do its best to equal that performance!”

The Belgian air force operated five Sea Kings: one is now in the Aviation Museum in Brussels, the town of Koksijde purchased one and a third is at the Ostend Air College. The last two are now bound for the UK.

The Sea King was originally a US helicopter, but was later also produced in the UK.  It’s two Rolls Royce engines each represent 1,660 horsepower giving it a top speed of 226 km/h and a range of 1,112 km.  Empty the Sea King weighs 5,835 kilos and can carry 26 passengers.  

Koksijde 1977
The Sea King at 25 in festive livery
The Zeebrugge ferry disaster 1987
Sea King successor, the NFH-90
Foto Kurt bvba, Foto Kurt

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