The long-delayed retirement of the CH-124 began in earnest Jan. 26 as CFB Shearwater said goodbye to the venerable submarine hunter. Sea Kings flew in formation over Halifax in the final operational flight of the 60-year-old helicopters on the East Coast. Sea Kings will continue to serve at 443 Squadron in Victoria, B.C. until it too transitions to the replacement platform, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. Shearwater crews have been training on the Cyclone over the past year, including ship-borne operations.
The Sea Kings started service with the Royal Canadian Navy in 1963 in response to the threat from Russian nuclear submarines operating off both coasts. Sea King operations have been legendary, with Canadian crews landing them on the pitching decks of relatively small Navy ships using a winch to pull them onto the decks. Just as legendary, unfortunately, has been the spotty reliability of the aircraft although there are many defenders of the type who say it wasn’t any more breakable than any other aircraft.