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Royal NAVY Sharks

United Kingdom
Royal NAVY Sharks logo

The Sharks was the Royal NAVY helicopter display team flying Westland-Aerospatiale Gazelle HT2 helicopters.

The team was formed in 1975 from the 705 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall. This squadron was responsible for the basic training of Royal Navy helicopter pilots during this time. All of the team's six pilots were instructors and trained formation aerobatics in their spare time.

The aircraft were red, white and grey painted with a shark emblem on the tail fin and equipped with orange and green smoke canisters attached to the skis. This was the standard color scheme for Royal NAVY Gazelle helicopters exclude the shark emblem.

First the team flew six helicopters until 1977, when after a mid-air collision during practice flight, crashing two helicopters and killing three pilots, the Shark Gazelles were reduced to four. Then the Gazelle’s fin and engine casing were painted gloss black to look more aggressive. After 1979 show season the Sharks helicopters were painted back to original scheme.

The air demonstration of the Sharks lasts about 12 minutes and included opposition maneuvers, bringing the rotor blades to within fifteen feet of each other, at closing speeds of over 200 miles per hour.

In addition to the formal four aircraft Sharks team, the 705 squadron fielded "pairs" for displays when the formal team was not available. These pairs flew in the last years of the Shark's existence and were sponsored by a famous rum Pusser's Rum.

In 1992 during budgetary cuts the team was disbanded, but 705 NAS continued to provide a pair of Gazelles known simply as the "Gazelle Pair" until 1996 when Gazelle helicopters were retired from Royal NAVY.

The Sharks performed not only in United Kingdom, but also in some European countries.

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