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Discarded RAF Sea Kings Are Now Quirky Glamping Pods, Prince William’s Is a Cafe Kiosk
The holiday season is in full swing, albeit with countless inconveniences that have already ruined millions of vacation plans. This new option for helicopter glamping is for the lucky ones whose plans have not been affected by airline issues.

Discarded RAF Sea Kings Are Now Quirky Glamping Pods, Prince William’s Is a Cafe Kiosk

Glamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicoptersGlamping pods in England are actually ex-RAF Sea King search-and-rescue helicopters
Glamping, the more sophisticated and fancier distant cousin of camping, is here to stay. Glamping offers the impression of an outdoor experience, but with all the comforts and even the luxuries of a hotel or resort stay. As such, it instantly appeals to the tamer adventure-seeker or regular 9-to-5-ers who just want to relax somewhere outside the city.

In recent years, glamping options have diversified because almost anything can serve as a pod. If anything, you could say that the quirkier the pod, the more interesting the glamping experience. From this perspective, helicopter glamping is right up there with the best.

Three new units have recently opened to the public in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England, and they’re not just places where you can sleep and chill out with family or friends, but what you could call immersive educational experiences. The pods are ex-RAF Sea King helicopters, bought as shells when they were decommissioned and painfully restored over the past five years by a local businessman. One of these aircraft, which is yet to be set up and will serve as a cafe kiosk, is actually one that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge himself, flew many times while still serving.

The Sea King, or the Westland Sea King, is a British license-built version of the Sikorsky S-61 Sea King. It entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1969 and has been used extensively in action in the Gulf War, the Balkans, Iraq, and Iran, with the last unit retired in 2018. The dedicated search and rescue Sea King known as HAR3 was introduced in 1979 and famously wore a yellow livery.

Ben Stonehouse, the local businessman mentioned above, is now the owner of three such HAR3s, which he bought from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) with plans to bring them back to their former glory so that other people could also enjoy them. The idea came to him after he bought the first Sea King shell some years ago and, not realizing the high cost of getting original parts, was eventually forced into selling it. Stonehouse regretted the decision so much that he “sat on the money” until the MoD auctioned other Sea King shells.

Unlike many glamping pods out there (after all, the idea of turning an aircraft hull into a pod of some sort is not new), Stonehouse’s units stand out because they feature cockpits restored with original parts as well as original blades and wheels. The rear part is turned into a living area with bunk beds, kitchen and bench seating, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a glamping unit. But once you enter the front, you can get a better appreciation of what it must’ve been like to fly one such helicopter.

Of the three HAR3s, two are already completed and available for tourists looking for a history lesson from their accommodation at the Pinewood Park campsite. The third is also completed, but it’s yet to find a location – it’s this one that comes with a very famous connection.

Registered XZ589, it was flown several times by Prince William during his time with the search-and-rescue team between 2010 and 2013. In fact, Flight Lieutenant William Wales was onboard XZ589 when he completed his first active mission with RAF, so its historical importance, especially for royalists, can’t be overlooked.

In January this year, Stonehouse spoke to the Yorkshire Post about the challenges and obstacles his project had come across, including the council’s refusal to allow him to buy a plot of land on which to set the helicopter pods up on account of light pollution and disrupting the view of the night sky. They were deemed eyesores, in fewer words.

Also then, he explained that his idea was to give back something to the community, which is why he’d chosen to restore the cockpits. It was no trifle to do so, even with all the help he got from aircraft enthusiasts and former RAF engineers: each unit reportedly cost £250,000 (approximately $300,000 at the current exchange rate) to bring to the condition it is today.

Stonehouse plans to use the Cafe Kiosk, Prince William’s former helicopter, as a non-profit base that would benefit local charities, including the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. “They aren’t an eyesore – they’re part of our heritage,” he said at the time. As of the time of press, with the Kiosk still not in business, he’s only halfway to honoring this heritage.



Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.

 
 
 
 
 

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