PORTSMOUTH, England, May 21 (UPI) -- The Ark Royal, the aircraft carrier that was for many years the flagship of the British navy, left Portsmouth for the last time Monday for a Turkish scrap yard.
Former members of the vessel's crew, some wearing black armbands, joined a crowd of onlookers who watched as the Ark Royal was towed out of the harbor, the Daily Mirror reported. Towing the ship to Turkey saves money on fuel.
The Ministry of Defense sold the Ark Royal, the most expensive ship in the history of the Royal Navy when it was placed into service in 1981 at a cost of $504 million, to a scrap company in Izmir for less than $4.5 million. Experts had determined the vessel, which was decommissioned in 2011, was in such bad condition that conversion to a floating museum was impossible.
David Snelson, a former commander of the Ark Royal, said the ship had "a good life."
"It would have been more fitting if she sailed away herself," Snelson said. "But it would definitely have been a waste of taxpayers' money."
The Ark Royal was one of three carriers in the Invincible class. The Invincible was scrapped in 2011, while the HMS Illustrious is still in service as a helicopter carrier with plans to convert it to a museum when it is decommissioned.
Five ships of the Royal Navy have been named Ark Royal. The first was the flagship of the naval force that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1587.