Belgium says goodbye to its Sea King helicopters after more than 40 years
Share article:
Share article:

Belgium says goodbye to its Sea King helicopters after more than 40 years

© Jerry Gunner/Wikimedia
A Sea King painted in Belgian national colours on the 25th anniversary of the aircraft's arrival at Koksijde
© Jerry Gunner/Wikimedia

Today sees the end of an iconic sight off the Belgian coast for the last forty years and more. The five Sea King helicopters of the Belgian air force first made their appearance from their base at Koksijde on the Belgian coast in 1976. The helicopter had a search and rescue (S&R) mission: rescuing swimmers in difficulties, attending ships in difficulty, transporting burns victims, tracing missing persons and performing security duties along the coast.

Visitors to the coast will certainly have seen a Sea King at least once, heading out over the water on a mission or at least an exercise. The Koksijde crews carried out a total of 3,309 S&R missions over the years, the most important of which was the mission that rescued more than 30 people on board the passenger ferry Herald of Free Enterprise, which capsized off the coast of Zeebrugge in March 1987, with the deaths of 193 passengers and crew.

“In total, our crews rescued 1,757 people, often in difficult circumstances,” the defence ministry said in a press release.

“The helicopter is intimately connected to our Belgian coast,” the ministry said. “During this last flight a crew member will, together with the mayor, plant a commemorative flag on the beach of every coastal municipality.” That will be followed by a fly-past by a formation of German and Norwegian Sea Kings, followed by an NFH-90 and an Alouette III, the other type of helicopter stationed at Koksijde.

The Sea Kings will be replaced by the NFH-90 Caiman helicopter, faster and more powerful, and more suited to a wider range of duties, but carrying fewer passengers than the Sea King’s maximum of 26. The letters NFH stand for Nato Frigate Helicopter, and the aircraft is also in service with Dutch and German forces.

The fate of the five retiring Sea Kings is not yet clear. One will probably remain at the base at Koksijde as a memorial. Two will be sold for parts, and one will go to the technical school in West Flanders for study purposes. A final home has not yet been found for the remaining helicopter.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
Up to 100 km/h winds expected across Belgium on Wednesday night
Gusts of up to 100 km/h are expected across Belgium on Wednesday night, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI), which has issued a ...
Cycling traffic officially added to VRT’s traffic bulletin
Usually a list of updates for drivers on busy roads, traffic bulletins will now include the latest travel news for cyclists in Belgium, VRT announced ...
MEPs call for European strategy to protect workers from asbestos
Members of the European Parliament are calling on the Commission to create a strategy for removing all abestos from buildings in order to reduce the ...
Mandatory vaccine for carers: employers call for sanctions
In a notice submitted by the National Council for Work (CNT), employers have called for heavy penalties for healthcare workers who refuse to receive ...
Police pension protest blocks several Brussels crossroads
On Wednesday, around 350 police officers expressed their dissatisfaction about the unclear pension scheme, low salaries and politicised police unions ...
Belgium in Brief: A Consultative Committee Sequel
Sequels often have a lot to live up to and when it comes to movie franchises, it gets difficult to keep up the hype once you get towards the final ...
25 years ago today: 300,000 people marched in white against child abuse
On this day 25 years ago, over 300,000 people marched in Brussels to demand a more effective justice system and to support the families of Julie, ...
Windy weather forecast should lower gas prices
After weeks of relatively calm conditions, a return to windy weather should lower Europe's soaring energy prices. Wind turbines in the UK and Germany ...
EC calls on candidate countries to focus on fundamental reforms before they can join the EU
The European Commission adopted yesterday its 2021 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by ...
Cigarette-eating robot patrols Ghent streets to fight littering
A litter fighting (and eating) robot will be patrolling the streets of Ghent in the coming weeks in an effort to raise awareness of the growing ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...