Antiquated Scouts seek a civilian touch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 December, 1993, 12:00am

ONLY two potential buyers are known to be interested in preventing the five remaining Scout helicopters of the Army Air Corps' 660 Squadron from being traded for scrap.

One private Hong Kong buyer and a collector from Britain have expressed interest in the 30-year-old helicopters, which would otherwise fetch $4,500 in scrap.

The squadron is the first unit in the British Garrison to be disbanded as the British forces in Hong Kong gradually wind down to 1997.

The Army has invited tenders for the Scouts, but its only real hope is that someone would want to preserve them for posterity.

Old age, design, lack of spare parts and cost of maintenance means they are unlikely to be bought for anything other than a museum piece or private amusement.

The helicopters, used for operational support, reconnaissance, observation, liaison and troop lifting, cannot be used for civilian purposes because their single engine restricts use over urban areas.

A spokesman for Heliservices, a private helicopter company, said the more modern machines had sophisticated equipment which rendered the Scout virtually useless apart from, perhaps, for a Third World country's army.

Their last official flight takes place on Monday with a fly-past in front of the Commander of the British Forces, Major-General John Foley, who will be at HMS Tamar. Three Scouts will represent the squadron.

December 31 is the date 660 Squadron officially stops flying before being disbanded in March.

Commanding officer Major Hugh Northam was philosophical about the break-up of the 62-man Sek Kong-based unit: ''All good things come to an end,'' he said.

The unit would be taken over by the Supply Services and the men posted to Brunei, Germany or Britain, he said.