A FORMER Royal Navy search-and-rescue helicopter has returned to service – this time as an unusual holiday home.
Stirling farmer Martyn Steedman and his wife Louise bought the Sea King in an online MoD auction in March and have spent nearly £40,000 from start to finish converting it into glamping accommodation.
The couple’s idea for the conversion came during the Sea Kings’ final flypast over Stirling earlier this year, which marked the end of active service for the entire fleet.
The 17m-long Sea King ZA127 aircraft was retired from active service in 1994 but was then used in naval training until 2002.
In April, it made its final 320-mile journey by road from Grantham, Lincolnshire, to its new home at Mains Farm Wigwams, situated on the outskirts of the village of Thornhill near Stirling.
The aircraft’s exterior has been fully restored, with its new owners retaining and restoring many of the Sea King’s original features.
The interior of the helicopter has been transformed into a holiday home that sleeps a family of six with a double and a triple bed as well as a single bed in the tail.
The curved walls have been insulated, wood panelled and painted which gives the inside the look of an upturned hull of a boat.
The focal point is the cockpit where guests can enjoy panoramic views over the Stirling countryside with the flight deck being refitted with swivel seats and a table painted with an RAF roundel and all the original lighting has been retained and restored.
Many of the Sea King’s original features have been retained except for the sonar station, which was removed and donated to The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare to make way for a shower room and mini-kitchen.
Mrs Steedman said: “It all started with the Sea Kings being decommissioned and we saw them on the telly flying around Scotland doing their farewell tour and we said it would be great to have one.
“I thought he was joking at first but Martyn said he had put a bid in and it’s a bit like eBay and I thought there’s no way we’re never going to get a helicopter, and then he came through saying no-one else has bid against him, so we realised that we had got a Sea King helicopter, and then the reality set in about how we were going to get it up here but we still couldn’t believe that we’d got one until it arrived.”
Mr Steedman added: “We’ve retained the original dashboard, roof panel switches and foot pedals, so customers can experience the helicopter as she once was and pretend they are flying her on a mission.”
The new accommodation is expected to welcome guests from spring next year from £150 per night for couples.
The Sea King transformation featured in the current series of Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.