A CAMPAIGN to preserve one of the RAF’s iconic yellow Sea King search and rescue helicopters in Scotland as a visitor attraction, once they are decommissioned, is winning celebrity support – including from actress Joanna Lumley and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly.
The Morayvia aviation heritage charity is spearheading a bid to buy one of the distinctive choppers which have been a daily sight in the skies above the north of the country for decades, saving thousands of lives at sea and on the nation’s peaks.
Morayvia was formed in 2011 to preserve the last remaining example of the Nimrod maritime patrol plane before they were decommissioned at RAF Kinloss.
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They have now moved their attention to the Sea Kings which have been based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray since the 1970s, but from the end of March this year they will cease operation and be replaced by Bristow’s AugustaWestland AW189s.
If the group is successful, the decommissioned search and rescue helicopter would be sited at their base in Kinloss.
It could then be used as a heritage and tourist attraction, as well as an educational resource.
Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley has sent a message of support to Morayvia.
The actress is a regular visitor to Lossiemouth, where her son Jamie lives with his family and works as a professional photographer.
She has also been up against the Ministry of Defence, having successfully led the fight for the rights of former members of the Gurkha’s to settle in the UK when their service in the iconic regiment came to and end.
Ms Lumley said: “What could be more thrilling than seeing a Sea King Search and Rescue helicopter up close?
“All my warmest good wishes go to Morayvia in their bid to buy one of these gentle giants.
“They have earned their place in history a thousand times over and I am proud to support this project with all my heart.”
Morayvia’s spokesman Mark Mair said: “We are delighted that Joanna has taken the trouble to back our campaign.
“Like thousands of people both here in Moray and throughout the UK she recognises the very special place the Sea King has in the hearts and minds of the public.
“Our campaign is gathering support from every corner of the country and hundreds have already signed an online calling for the Ministry of Defence to carefully consider allocating one of the two Sea Kings currently at RAF Lossiemouth to Morayvia’s site at Kinloss, where it can be cared for and preserved as a permanent reminder of the important role it played in saving the lives of thousands.”
Morayvia’s plan is to have the entire helicopter – minus a few internal parts to prevent it from flying – permanently grounded at its base in Kinloss.
The group’s chief executive Stan Barber said: “Many people have seen the yellow helicopter, but very few people have gone in to see what it’s about and understand it. This would give them a chance to do just that. But we will just have a period of a few weeks to do this.
“We are trying to do something that is a credit to the memory and heritage, and that’s something we want to do. We just want to do what we need to do in a timely fashion, and it gives us three months to sort something out.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “It is the MoD’s responsibility to get best value for money for the taxpayer from any equipment sales, decisions on the value of surplus MoD equipment will be decided either by a bidding process or the nominated sales value on defence disposals website.”
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