The versatile ”Bananen”
These helicopters became well known as guardian angels, not least for residents of the Swedish archipelagos, fishermen and sailors. They brought a completely new possibility to rapidly assist fishing folk in danger, or to collect severely ill patients from the many islands that were not connected by bridges, and take them to the nearest hospital.
The first rescue mission for No. 2 Helicopter Squadron at Gothenburg was rather unusual but successful. An ice fisherman had gone out on to the ice at Lake Vänern on 10th January 1960, but his boat had been trapped and crushed. An Hkp 1 piloted by Rolf Nyström and Sven Robertsson took off from Torslanda and headed for Lake Vänern. Despite fog and poor visibility the crew succeeded in finding the fisherman who had managed to climb on to an ice floe and save himself unharmed.
These large helicopters could also be used to fight forest fires by being equipped with suspended buckets which could be quickly filled from any nearby lake or river. Because they were constructed for operation in cold climates they could also be used effectively in the north of Sweden all year round.
Another task was troop transportation; the Hkp 1 could ferry 20 soldiers at a time.
The Air Force steps in
The Helicopter Type 1 was special, in that it was in principle only flown by the Navy’s own aircrews. However in 1962 the Swedish Air Force acquired two Hkp 1s as rescue helicopters while awaiting delivery of the Hkp 4 model. The former were later taken over by the Navy in 1964.
The flying sub hunter
Another role met by Naval helicopters was to hunt submarines. The Hkp 1 was equipped with a ”dunking sonar” or underwater hydrophone that enabled an operator to listen for underwater sounds, and depth charges to be dropped and attack any submarine that may have been detected. The helicopter has over the years been shown to be a very dangerous opponent of submarines, as they can move quickly and appear anywhere without the submarine having any warning.
Minesweeping was another task for the Hkp 1, which could complement ships doing that job. As the helicopter is flying over the water it does not risk being blown up by a mine, which on the other hand could happen to even the most advanced minesweeping vessel.
The first accident
Sadly the Navy helicopters also suffered casualties. On 5 February 1960 an Hkp 1 from the 1st Helicopter Squadron, based at the Skå airfield near Stockholm, crashed suffering three fatalities. Ironically the accident occured in connection with a practice forced landing. In all three Hkp 1 helicopters crashed while in Swedish service.
Goodbye to the ”Banana”
The Hkp 1 served the Swedish Navy until 1972. It was then replaced by the Hkp 4, which was the Swedish version of the CH46. Although the Hkp 1’s time was over, the Navy appreciated the tandem rotor concept, and the Hkp 1 was replaced by the machine that its creator had developed as a replacement. The Helicopter Type 4 also came to be called ”Bananen” or ”Bananhelikopter” but if you ask an old Navy crewman you will find that there’s only one real ”Flying Banana”!