National Maritime Museum Cornwall proves size does matter

National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s new Search & Rescue exhibition is just weeks away from opening. However, it’s taken years of planning and the generous support of the RNLI, MCA, Royal Navy, RAF and many other organisations and individuals to make it happen.

Behind every exhibition, large or small, is an even bigger team and this cannot be underestimated for the Museum’s new Search & Rescue exhibition and its recent helicopter installation.

The Ministry of Defence has loaned a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter. Retired from service with the introduction of the Merlin Mk1, it has been stored at a depot awaiting disposal. However, thanks to the MOD, the Royal Navy, RAF, AgustaWestland and Vector Aerospace the Sea King now has a new lease of life.

It not only has a new home and a new role but also a new coat of paint thanks to the generous assistance of AgustaWestland. The skilled technicians at Vector Aerospace have painted the aircraft in the combined livery of both the Royal Navy and RAF Search and Rescue colours — something which has never been done or seen before.

Size matters at the Maritime MuseumRay Edwards, Managing Director at AgustaWestland says: “The Sea King remains the mainstay of the UK Search and Rescue helicopter service and AgustaWestland is proud to be responsible for keeping them flying 365 days a year. We are also pleased to support this major exhibition which will highlight the lifesaving work carried out on a daily basis by search and rescue helicopters and the aircrew that fly them.”

Michael Tyrrell, Managing Director, Vector Aerospace UK, says, “Vector Aerospace has helped maintain the Sea King fleet for over 40 years and when the opportunity to assist with this project arose we were delighted to help. The iconic liveries on this aircraft highlight the UK armed forces support to search and rescue services over the years. The refinish team here at Vector rose to the challenge that was set and are extremely proud of the end result. We wish the museum and exhibition the best of luck for the future.”

Prior to her forthcoming new role as a hands-on interactive within the Museum, this Sea King had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy. Her first flight was on 15 April 1970 and she served in the Falklands War, operating with other Sea Kings on the afternoon of 8 June 1982 when three bombs hit the RFA Sir Galahad. The ship was heavily laden with Welsh Guardsman and with significant casualties the Sea Kings worked together to winch the injured.

Following her time in the Falklands, she served at RNAS Culdrose, with many personnel who are still based there today. So, you could say this Sea King is returning back home.

Commanding Officer 771 Naval Air Squadron Lt Cdr Chris ‘Damage’ Canning says: “Here at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose we are absolutely delighted to have been able to assist the Maritime Museum in assembling this magnificent exhibition in recognition of the work, both past and present, of the UK’s Maritime Rescue Services. The team at the museum really have done a fantastic job capturing the different organisations that stand ready at a moment’s notice to respond to an unfolding emergency on or around our coastline.”

Ben Lumby, Exhibitions Manager at the Maritime Museum says: “There are a handful of staff and volunteers at the Museum who have developed the installation but behind us are teams of researchers, donors, designers, suppliers, funders…the list is endless. Without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver this exhibition and we wouldn’t be able to commemorate and celebrate the work of the maritime rescue services.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for their time and investment and look forward to opening the doors to the exhibition on Friday 16 March to see how our visitors react to this new, powerful and important exhibition.”

The new Search & Rescue exhibition at National Maritime Museum Cornwall opens on Friday 16 March, 2012.