Sea King helicopters make journey home after 50 years

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report from Historic Helicopters

Two Sea King helicopters have returned to south Somerset after being decommissioned from the Belgian Air Force.

The pair were made more than 50 years ago in Yeovil at Westlands helicopter manufacturers, now known as Leonardo.

It took four hours to fly the helicopters back from Belgium, touching down at the Yeovil base before flying on to their new home at Historic Helicopters near Chard.

Former solider Andrew Whitehead set up the educational charity, which already has five decommissioned Sea Kings, and he says the aircraft have a "fantastic history".

Jane Gregory is believed to be the only woman outside of the military who can fly a Sea King helicopter Credit: ITV News

Pilot Jane Gregory is thought to be the only female civilian qualified in the world to fly a Sea King. 

She says she learned just 'for fun' and to make sure "if anything happened while I was in an aircraft I could hopefully save myself and any other passengers".

But instead of just learning the basics, Jane says she's now trusted with flying "9 tonnes of aircraft".

Reflecting on getting more women into flying helicopters, Jane said: "Strength isn't involved, size isn't involved - its totally feasible so if I can encourage a few extra to have a go then it's totally worth it."

The site when it was formerly known as AgustaWestland Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/Press Association Images

History of the Sea Kings

The Westland Sea King first took flight in 1969 after being built at what is now Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil.

The aircraft has been in service militaries and search and rescue teams all over the world with a fleet of more than 70 Sea Kings still active.

These two aircraft, RS02 and RS04, were used by the Belgian Air Force mostly for search and rescue operations between 1976 until March 2019.