The Sea King crew consisted of  two pilots,  a Tactical Coordinator ( TACCO) and an Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator (AESOP). There was also capacity aboard for up to three passengers.

The Pilot sat in the right seat, with the co-pilot on the left. In the original CH-124, the TACCO and AESOP sat facing forward. The TACCO sat with his left elbow by the port-side escape window under the sponson strut, with the AESOP to his right (more or less on the centre line of the helicopter) A sonar reeling machine and bell housing passed through the floor immediately behind the AESOP.  Each had an individual console.

In the current CH-124, the TACCO and AESOP  sit on the centre-line of the helicopter, facing to starboard, with the TACCO just aft of the port-side personnel door and the AESOP just aft of that.  Behind the pilot is a 24 inch (approximately ) square box extending from floor to ceiling. It is affectionately called the broom closet , however, inside are the hydraulic jacks that provide autopilot input controls for the collective and cyclic controls.   The navigation and sensor equipment is mounted in a common console fixed to the starboard wall.

The pilot can be left, centre or right seats depending on the model of helicopter. Generally speaking placement is driven by the direction of rotation of the main rotor. If the helicopter looses all power  and therefore no significant tail rotor effect the helicopter body has a natural tendency to rotate in the opposite direction to the rotor.  The pilot is placed on the appropriate side so he/she  gets a better view of the landing location.

ACP-165, the NATO brevity codeword bible defines a "Playboy" as Tactical air coordinator - airborne.  A stiff wing maritime patrol a/c capable of both search and attack was a Pelican.  A sonar equipped helicopter was a Dipper; a radar fitted dipping helicopter was a Big Dipper; a weapon carrying helo was a Pony.  A destroyer was a Cowboy.  Mother is the helo's parent ship, Father the TACAN, Ringer a ship fired close to medium range weapon (depth charges fired from a gun) and  Bloodhound a torpedo just to name a few.

Capt. Don Philip, from Toronto,  a pilot with HMCS Winnipeg's CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachment, goes over his checklist during a mission in the Gulf of Oman in 2005. (Photo # IS2005-2142a by Sgt Frank Hudec, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)


Operating the sensors aboard a Sea King. (DND photo)

The photographer is crouching in the space just inside the port side passenger door.  Pictured here is the TACCO. The Airborne Systems Operator or AESOP sat  to his right.  He is looking at the new navigation system added to the helicopter.  The scope with the orange circular face is the Litton radar.

Above the Nav there is a panel of 6 buttons, each with two horizontal (coloured) lines.  These controlled the compass card (true, track), and the pointer/DME counter selections.  Above that is the weapons setting panels (red release button visible, the rest of it isn't).  Slightly to the right is the BDHI (Bearing Distance Heading Indicator).  Below that is the clock.

The radar controls are masked by the TACCO's gooseneck table light.  Below that is the sonar operator's Intercom panel with the TACCO's is above and the to the left but out of the picture.

The sonobuoy receiver controls are up above the sonar set. 

The "pedestal"  (box - corner just visible, with pyramid shaped pipes topped by the winch machine) encloses the main probe, which is lowered about 18 inches landing aboard the ship.  The probe has a collar on the bottom and the bars of the Beartrap close over the probe to lock the helo into the Beartrap.  A tail probe keeps the helo from pivoting around the main probe.  The bear trap is then used to move the helio into and out of the hangar.  The winch is used to send a messenger cable down to the ship where it is attached the ship's cable which, when locked into the probe, is tensioned with several hundred pounds of tension to act as a 'guide' for the pilot to fly to.  The red T-handle is used to manually release the 'dog cock' on the end of the ship's cable (the pilot has an electrically operate release).

The sonar cable reeling machine is directly behind the hauldown pedestal, behind the sound proofing curtain. 

ASP TACCO is always installed on the left side.  In the picture, the laptop on the left is the ASP, and the older computer on the right is the AN/ASN-123, now removed.  In the upper right; is the radar which is also digitized and displayed on the laptop.  The black panel immediately right of the 123 control is the SENSO input for the 123. (From the collection of Maj Dwight Bazinet)
ASP SENSO is installed if the sonar is removed on the right.  (From the collection of Maj Dwight Bazinet)

The TACCO in the above photo is wearing a "Poopy Suit".  Ian Snow expands on this. " The exposure suit, which had its origins in the Royal Navy, acquired the moniker  "Poopy Suit" for reasons explained later in the text. It  was  worn by the Sea King  and also the Tracker crews.  The suit is constructed from  two layers of material and its actually not that uncomfortable.   The major irritant (for some) was the neck and wrist collars which where cone shaped however the Safety Systems people would alter them to fit each person individually.  We wore them when flying over water or any time the combination of water and air temperature was below 85C. Unless you were in the tropics or the occasional day in very late August or early September we had them on.  It was just part of the routine.

The two ply material breathes when dry. Get it wet and the suit seals tight.  I once wore my suit for a February open-water semi-annual qualification (we normally did it in the pool with training suits).  To my surprise the suit worked exactly as advertised and I spent over half an hour in the harbour.  I was actually pretty comfortable except for my hands and the back of my neck where the water was getting into the mitts and under the hood.

The real secret is in the underwear underneath. There were summer and winter versions.  The winter version was a padded. one-piece garment available at any hunter's supply store.  For summer , it was longjohns.  The suit was fitted with rubber boots or neoprene socks (work boots in summer/mukluks in winter) depending on personal choice.

There was no air conditioning in the Sea King. You could open the pilot's side windows and the cargo door to get ram air cooling but for the back seaters sitting under the engines and main transmission you just learned to live with it.  There was a cooling vest trial conducted in the mid-80's but it proved unworkable.  It was too much effort dragging the hoses around and in terms of bulk, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.  Also, the cooling unit came at the expense of fuel. Another version of this system was installed in the Sea Kings that were converted to go to the Gulf War.  I believe however, that only the pilots wore the vests (no poopy suits of course).

The "stiff wingers" (fixed wing aircraft) had, in my time at least, a one-time use exposure suit that was stored in the aircraft.  It was a one-size-fits-all type of thing, being made of a very thin waterproof material (put over all the clothing you had) and baggy. One couldn't walk properly, had to be careful not to snag the material on anything. It had enough rope on the mitts and hood to hang three people. The neck and wrist seals would strangle your little finger.  It was totally unlike the exposure suits worn for example by passengers being ferried by commercial helicopter out to oil rigs.

There were some old salts still wearing an earlier two-piece exposure suit,  like the one I wore when I got to Shearwater in 1972.  It was made of a rubberized canvass.  You held your arms over your head and wiggled into the top.  The top and bottom were then rolled together to form a seal around the waist.  They smelled of extraordinarily stale body door and other excretions and that's where the moniker POOPY comes from.  We had fire-fighting suits onboard made of the same material.  As far as I'm concerned it would have been useless in the North Atlantic."

by Capt Marsha Dorge
A Story from Sentinel Magazine 1982/2
What do Sea King helicopter pilots look at when they're landing and taking off? Landing lights, aircraft instruments, or the flight deck of the ship on which they're landing are some of the possibilities. You may think that only the pilot knows for sure and that what he's looking at is not really important as long as the landing is safe. But there's the rub. A pilot may not be consciously aware of where he actually looks during periods of critical low level flying. But it is important that researchers know exactly where the pilot is looking throughout landing and take-off.

For this reason, a two man DCIEM team from Toronto is using a specially designed helmet, fitted with an eye movement recording system at CFB Shearwater. The actual field of vision of pilots wearing the helmet has been recorded on 16 mm film during a number of test flights at the base in the past year.

Capt Maury Hill, bioscience officer and Andy Beach, defence scientist, both with the human engineering section of DCIEM, are conducting the test with Capts Grant Bristow and Dennis Marguerrat, Helicopter Operational Test and Evaluation Flight (HOTEF) pilots. By examining and recording the pilots' eye movements the study team hopes to discover the causes of disorientation. Results of the tests could lead to avoidance of the problem and improvement of landing aid systems to ensure even safer landings for the Sea Kings.

Also being tested is a remotely controlled video camera which records aircraft activity relative to the ship during landings and take-offs. This camera helps determine how well a pilot is maintaining his position. During testing, the DCIEM scientists accompany the test pilots in the Sea King so they can monitor both the video and eye mark recording systems.

In future, various landing aid systems in the helicopters and ships may be tested. Other pilots will also be taking part in the study. The equipment has been used by the U.S. Army, but has been modified for Sea King use. The fact that its functioning in such an operationally realistic settting, is a Canadian development.

"This study is another excellent opportunity for research to be operationally related," said Capt Hill. "What we do here may aid pilots and increase safety for them."

Capt Grant Bristow, a member of HOTEF, tries on one of the fiber optics helmets. (DND photo # SWC 81·1888) 

Credits and References:

1) Ian Snow <va3qt-4(at)>
2) Sentinel Magazine 1982/2

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