Air Transportation: The Slow Sunset Of The Sea King


June 17, 2014: Malaysia recently received the first four of the twelve Cougar EC725 transport helicopters ordered back in 2010. This is an 11 ton, European made, aircraft with a useful load of 5.5 tons, a top speed of 324 kilometers an hour and endurance of about five hours. The twelve EC725 cost nearly $50 million each and will replace 28 elderly S-61 Sea Kings. The Sea Kings are decades old and Malaysia has a hard time keeping in flying condition. There have been 15 accidents, killing 89 people, since the S-61s entered service in 1968.

The nine ton Sea King is a late 1950s design, and contemporary of the U.S. Army's UH-1 "Huey." In the U.S., the Sea Kings were replaced by a navy version (the Seahawk) of the Hueys successor, the UH-60 Blackhawk. Over a dozen other navies bought the Sea King, and many still use it. But these aircraft are getting old. The Sea King has a range of about a thousand kilometers, and a top speed of 210 kilometers an hour. It was mainly used for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. Malaysia uses them for search and rescue as well as transporting personnel and cargo.

Some 1,500 Sea Kings were built (about ten percent were the civilian S-61 version), and less than a hundred are still in use. Such long service lives are increasingly common because of improved aircraft maintenance techniques. Some of the first Sea Kings built survived for over three decades. And many of the U.S. Navy Sea Kings will continue to serve with the U.S. Marines, where even the U.S. president still travels aboard them. The S-61s used to transport the American president are to be replaced by the similar, but much more recent S-92 in the next decade.



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