It was a bird! It was a plane! No, it was a retired Sea King helicopter trucked through Langford on Aug. 6.
According to a spokesperson for CFB Esquimalt, the helicopter was being transported down Sooke Lake Road on Tuesday evening, en route from 443 Squadron at Patricia Bay to the Comox Air Force Museum.
The aircraft, one of 28 retired from flying status by the Royal Canadian Air Force in December, was originally from a fleet of 41 purchased in 1963. Over the years, the aircraft were used for search and rescue operations, disaster relief, counter-narcotic operations as well as fisheries, international peacekeeping operations, and pollution patrols.
A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence (DND) said that, following the retirement of the helicopters, DND and Public Services and Procurement Canada have been working on the divestment of the aircraft.
“The Department of National Defence wants to ensure that the venerable history of the Sea King is preserved, while disposing of aircraft in the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way possible,” the spokesperson said.
In addition to the historic chopper transported to Comox last week, seven other Sea Kings have been retained for public display at: Shearwater Aviation Museum (two); Shearwater Memorial Garden; Trenton National Air Force Museum; Borden Military Museum; National Defence Headquarters; and the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron Gate Guardian in Patricia Bay.
One aircraft has also been retained as a DND and Canadian Armed Forces training aid at the Naval Fleet School Pacific in Victoria, and another has been transferred to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa to be put on display.
Three Sea Kings were demilitarized and converted to waste in September.
“The three helicopters were deemed unsuitable for disposal by any other means, including sale or retention for display,” the spokesperson said. “Many of their parts have been used to help sustain the rest of the fleet as it approached the end of its life cycle.”
Since some of the aircraft were still in good flying condition and enough had been identified for historical preservation, 15 of the helicopters have also been sold to Rotor Maxx Support Limited.
According to DND, the Canadian company will take possession of the aircraft in a phased approach expected to begin in the coming months, and intends to refurbish the aircraft and remarket them to eligible customers.