Monday, 4 July 2011

Prince William P2 In Canadian Forces' Sea King Ditching Training

The Royal Canadian Navy acquired 41 Sikorsky CH-124 Sea Kings (as they became in 1968) in 1963 and due to government dithering the 28 survivors are still in service today with 12 Wing Air Command based at Shearwater. Thanks to the sterling efforts of ground engineers putting in 30 manhours of servicing for every flying hour, the old girls are still flying. Despite this, 40% of sorties are cancelled. To mitigate the risks involved in ditching due to engine failure (there's an awful lot of water in Canada), every year crews are trained how to ditch safely on the freshwater Morris Lake (to minimise corrosion). All gaps in the airframe are sealed with tape to prevent water ingress during the practice flights.

This is how it's done.

The BBC report of Prince William's ditching practice. That's him in the lefthand seat, helicopter captains sit on the right because that's how Igor Sikorsky originally laid out the cockpit of the WS-300 nearly seventy years ago.

Nicholas "Ginger" Witchell, the BBC Royal Reporter and Nessie expert, claimed that the Canadians were the only organisation to do Search and Rescue by alighting on the water. Presumably, the cabin door is opened to allow waves to roll in and capsize the aircraft. Nick, Nick, Nick, if the Sea King ends up in the drink, its crew need to be winched up by another helicopter. You may have got mixed up with the old Sikorsky Pelican operated by the US Coastguard that would land on came water if absolutely necessary.

The good news is that the CH-148 Cyclone will replace the Sea Kingas the Canadian Forces shipboard helicopter ( ie its equivalent of the FAA's Lynx and Merlin) in the near future. It's a pity that the Royal SAR pilot wasn't allowed a flight in a Canadian Forces CH-149 Cormorant aka AW101 Merlin. But given the undecided PFI or not PFI question of the RAF/FAA/MCA's own SAR Sea King/S-92/AW139 replacement scheduled for 2016 - Eurocopter EC225 or Sikorsky S-92 but not the AW101 Merlin, allowing the Duke of Cambridge to fly in a contending aircraft was probably vetoed for political reasons.

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