THEY LINED UP excitedly for what was a unique close-up view of an aircraft that had been admired thousands of times as it flew over their heads.
For Moray communities the bright yellow RAF Sea King has always been loved and admired – so it was no real surprise on Saturday that they snapped up the chance of a close-up encounter with the region’s very own example of the iconic rescue aircraft.
Accompanied by another illustrious member of the ‘Morayvia Collection’, the cockpit of an ex-Kinloss based Nimrod, Sea King XZ592 went on a brief tour of Buckie, Elgin, Lossiemouth and Forres.
Crowds gathered – but none more than at Lossiemouth, the town where the Sea King was most visible during the decades of service they enjoyed at the RAF base on the edge of town.
Joining hundreds of excited visitors was the base station commander, Group Captain Mark Chappell, who gave the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Lieutenant Colonel Grenville Johnston, an insight into the controls of XZ592.
“It was very real flying when compared to the likes of the Tornado fast jets,” Mark explained, adding: “There always had to be two Sea King pilots on board for a start – that was necessary for the simple reason that one pilot could not see out to both sides of the aircraft.
“Also you really had to ‘fly’ these aircraft constantly – there was none of the automatic systems that exist on jets such as the Tornado.”
The Sea King tour was arranged as a ‘thank you’ for the ongoing support shown by the people of Moray for Morayvia, who with the stalwart support of Lt Col Johnston have gathered a fantastic collection of aircraft they expect will go on show to the public for the first time by the end of this summer.
Stan Barbour, the chief executive officer of the group, said that work on their new science and technology centre in Kinloss was picking up pace: “The aim is to open the centre by the end of August with an initial set of exhibits – including our Sea King.
“There is still some work needed to the centre so the exact timing of the opening is not certain as yet but we hope to have all the work required completed and start to pay back the public for all the faith they have shown in helping to get us this far.”
XZ592 has an illustrious history that had seen the aircraft serve the RAF for almost 40 years – including spells at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Valley, where Sea Kings were flown by Prince William before he left his military role to continue flying as a civilian pilot with Bond Air Services on their East Anglian air ambulance service.
Morayvia has reached the final few weeks in its appeal to raise £30,000 to pay the costs of obtaining XZ592 and fitting out a suitable display area – details can be found online.