BELOW: RAF Rescue Sea King HAR3 (XZ585) taxis to the runway on departures day of the 2010 Air Tattoo, Fairford, Gloucestershire, England.
This photo is of the reconstructed XZ585 following its accident and salvage recovery at Craig Meagaidh, by Fort William, Scotland in 1989.
Photo: 2010 Adrian Pingstone ('Arpingstone')
Aircraft Type and Background
RAF Westland HAR Mk.3 Sea King / XZ585 (call sign SK138).
Sea King recognition (photo / diagram).
Equipped with two Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft engines, the Westland Sea King HAR3 helicopter entered service with the RAF in 1978. It has a maximum speed of 125 knots, and is designed to carry a crew of four. Its maximum altitude is 10,000ft.
The HAR3 Sea King is specially equipped for Search and Rescue (SAR) duties, with advanced avionics including satellite navigation, radar and radio.
This variant has an extended cabin, additional fuel carrying capabilities, and extra observation windows.
Aircraft Accident Details
On the day of the accident, RAF Sea King XZ585 was taking part in joint exercises with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (Lochaber MRT). At the end of this exercise, the Sea King was scheduled to transfer a stretcher to the remote First Aid Post in the Coire Adair valley.
Because strong winds had been forecast in the vicinity of Coire Adair, five members of Lochaber MRT left the aircraft beforehand to reduce the load. Then, the Sea King helicopter left for the First Aid Post with the pilot, co-pilot, radar operator, winchman and five remaining passengers. The passenger were: an RAF ground crew member; two members of the MRT, and two members of an ITV film crew who were documenting the operation.1
The Sea King, which was being flown by the co-pilot, made two failed approaches to the landing area. Then, the more experienced pilot took over the controls and modified the approach to take advantage of up-draughting conditions in the area. However, while hovering, a sudden down-draught required the pilot to overshoot the proposed landing area and to continue down the valley.
At this point, the pilot turned the aircraft and flew back up the valley. However, after turning, the pilot again encountered down-draughting conditions and was forced to apply more power to clear the rising ground.
Without warning, however, the pilot experienced a sudden failure of one of the engines. Consequently, he warned the crew and passengers of an impending heavy landing. The helicopter then landed forcefully at 60knots, but rolled onto its side after hitting the ground.
The crew and all the passengers escaped. Four personnel suffered minor injuries.
The cause of the accident was recorded as a failure of the main rotor gearbox, resulting in a shutdown of the port engine.
Subsequently, the aircraft was recovered from the crash site. Using salvaged parts, it has since been rebuilt to fly operationally again.
[Above details from MoD Accident Report.]
1. ITV film crew...: This was for one of the episodes in the TV series 'Rescue'. This incident was covered in Episode 13: Sting In The Tale (First broadcast 1 April 1990). "The crew set off for a weekend training with the mountain rescue team but an exercise goes drastically wrong." [Wikipedia]
'Rescue', episode 13, available here on YouTube. (c. 25 mins.)
Aircraft Crew / Passenger Survivors
All on board this Sea King helicopter survived the accident. These were:
Steve Hodgson, Pilot, RAF.
Paul Readfern, Co-Pilot,
Paul Challice, Radio/Winch Operator, RAF.
Bob Pountney, Winchman, RAF.
The names of the RAF ground crewman and the remaining four passengers are not known.
Crash Site Photos
BELOW: The wreckage of RAF Westland Sea King helicopter XZ585 at Craig Meagaidh by Fort William.
Photo: © 1989-2013 Ray Sefton
BELOW: Another view of the badly damaged Sea King helicopter.
Photo: © 1989-2013 Ray Sefton
NOTE: This aircraft has since been recovered from the crash site. Salvaged parts and equipment have been used to reconstruct this helicopter. The rebuilt Westland Sea King bears the same serial code; i.e., XZ585. A photo of the rebuilt aircraft can be seen near the top of this page.
Crash Date / Site
Accident Date: 28 Jan 1989
Region: Highland (Grampians)
Nearest town or village:
Nearest large town:
OS Grid Ref: N/A
GPS Ref. N/A
Present Condition: Aircraft recovered from crash site.
Accident Specific Links
STV documentary Rescue: Episode 13: Sting in the Tail. (This was the episode being filmed when this Sea King crashed. Film includes aftermath of crash, rescue of personnel, and accident investigation (c. 25 mins.))
RAF and Related Links
Hill Walking Links
(Hillwalking and Mountaineering)
Hillwalking (The Scottish Mountaineering Club)
Hillwalking.org.uk (Equipment, etc.)
Mountain Guides (Routes, maps, advice and guidance compiled by Steven Fallon)
OutdoorScotland.co.uk (Directory of Clubs, Associations, and Mountain Rescue Teams)
WalkingScotland (The official Walking site of Scotland's national tourism organisation)
Other Outdoor Activities
Backpacking and Backpackers
Cicerone (Backpacking Guides for Walking in the UK)
Kayaking and Canoeing
Kayak Scotland (Sea Kayaking in Scotland)
Kayaking at Active Scotland (Various venues)
Rock Climbing and Abseiling
Abseiling Scotland (Various venues)
Rock Climbing at Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre (Skills Courses and Qualifications Courses)
Rock Climbing in Scotland (Rock Climbing Areas)
Trekking and Hiking
Gairloch Trekking Centre (Pony Trekking in the Scottish Highlands)
Pony and Quad Treks (North Wales)
Ramblers (Worldwide Holidays)
Emergency Services Link
If you cannot make voice calls, you can now contact the 999 emergency services by SMS text from your mobile phone.
Westland Sea King XZ585
Craig Meagaidh, Fort William