These shots are from a few years ago. I had the privilege to spend a day with the late Alan Purwin during the filming for one of the Transformers movies in Chicago. I got to fly with them on some of the shoot but I also was on the ground when they went off on part of the filming. I put myself directly ahead of the Astar when they took off and Alan buzzed me. I noticed when going through the images that the cameraman was tracking me with the stabilized mount on the nose as they flew over the top.
The California Highway Patrol brought not one but two aircraft to the Heli Fest. One was an Astar helicopter and the other was a GA-8 Airvan. Sadly, the airport management team was not feeling very flexible and they would not allow anything fixed wing to be on show by the museum. Consequently, the Airvan crew was made to park on the other side of the field and they had to be driven across. Meanwhile, the Astar crew had their helicopter on the line and so was able to answer questions from the visitors.
The Airvan crew may have been feeling a bit left out but they certainly made their presence felt when they departed. The aircraft is equipped with a PA system and it had the siren going as it took off. Everyone was in no doubt who they were. I am glad they didn’t get completely left out. The Astar also headed out. The CHP operations are pretty interesting so I shall be trying to do a bit more with this operation soon.
I love helicopters and getting to see two in close quarters at Salinas recently was the sort of thing to make me smile. An Astar had come up to drop someone off and was heading back out again. Meanwhile, a local Robinson R-44 had been moved out on to the ramp next to it for its pilot to have a local flight. They ended up starting up and departing at almost the same time. What I hadn’t realized was that the departure path for both of them was going to take them right past me.
I had figured that they would start up and then hover taxi to the runway before departing in the runway heading. Instead, the approved profile made use of the taxiway next to where I was. The result was that they both pulled to the hover and then turned in my direction before accelerating right by. That was a lot better than I was expecting. The need to gain speed before climbing to minimize time in the “avoid curve” means that you get a nice low view of a helicopter when it takes off. This is far better than the fixed wing alternative in my view.
While I was getting lucky catching the Huey at Hayward, this wasn’t the only helicopter I came across in action. A short distance away from me, an Astar was running up on the ramp. Before too long, it lifted, taxied across to the active runway and then departed to the southeast. It turned out to belong to the Regional Parks service. I had actually seen this airframe before when it had been at Livermore. This time I was a lot closer to it and able to get a far better view.
It is actually quite a nice paint job that they have applied. Some quick research suggests that they have a couple of these Astars. I wouldn’t mind finding out more about them and what they are used for. It could make for a more detailed piece at some point.
The team from Helinet was in town recently as part of a movie shoot. With the end of the shoot coming up, I was asked to get some shots of the helicopter in the city. Alan knows exactly what he is doing when flying in amongst the city buildings and can put the helicopter wherever I wanted it for the images. We even got lucky with some great weather. (The following day, it was foggy and no go at all!)
With some advance planning and some good communication during the shoot, we were able to position the helicopter to look dynamic in amongst the buildings. It would have been good to get some video too but time was limited and stills were required so that is what we did. A fun shoot and great people to work with.
My Dad’s 70th birthday seemed like something that deserved a decent present. What to get him though? As someone who spent his entire working career in London property, he has seen all parts of the city many times. However, I know he hasn’t seen it from above so much. Therefore, a helicopter ride over the city seemed like a good idea. The fact that I thought it would be really cool too is neither here nor there!
I asked a friend of mine who flies helicopters who he would recommend for this and, being an outstandingly good fellow, he volunteered his services. A very generous gesture. Having someone I know flying the trip meant it was a lot easier to discuss exactly what we wanted to do.
The helicopter corridor across London runs along the River Thames. You join it at Greenwich to avoid the London City Airport airspace and then head along the river through the city and out to the west until you reach Fulham at which point you peel off to avoid Heathrow – always a good idea if they aren’t expecting you!
The weather was not quite what we had hoped. The day started very nicely but the haze built up as we went. Flying early was probably a good idea since it didn’t clear up again until the evening at which point the birthday party was underway. I saw a few buildings that have sprung up since I left including The Shard. I do love London and seeing it again from such a great vantage point was a lot of fun. I hope Dad enjoyed it as much as I did!
Every once in a while, I am reminded of something that has happened before and I realize that this took place in the days before I started blogging. Then I have to decide whether it is fair to you, my dedicated reader, to roll out something that is several years old as a blog post. If it is interesting enough, why not. Besides, my life is not always so interesting so getting material is a case of taking it when you have it.
The subject in this case is a helicopter. “no, surely not” I hear you cry. It’s not like I ever write about or photograph helicopters. This is true. Indeed, this helicopter was involved in filming in the city which, as some recent posts will show, is not a particularly new topic either. This film, though, was Transformers 3. The filming of Transformers was a big deal in the city. Major streets were shut for days at a time and set construction to make them look like they had been demolished was impressive. As I think about it, I should probably post some pictures of that too at some point (note to self…).
Alan Purwin of Helinet was the pilot for the helicopter used for filming. It was a Eurocopter Astar (Squirrel for those of you in the UK and Ecureuil for the French speakers). It had a large camera mount on the nose to hold the cinema camera. Until recently, it was relatively easy to tell movie shoots from TV shoots by the size of the mount. Now film cameras are being replaced with such digital powerhouses as the Reds, the mount sizes are no longer so obvious.
There was filming day and night (including people skydiving into the shots from other helicopters and, if memory serves, the Trump Tower) and some pretty dramatic explosions. The Astar would fly around the river a lot getting shots and sometimes the shots were of people on the buildings so it would be flying close to them. All of this was a treat for someone like me. Just watching it was great fun but I got some shots too.
The plan had been to write a piece on Helinet. However, Paramount were not keen on having anything come out until the movie was released (a year later!) so the article stumbled a little. Then, there was an accident on one of the sets out of the city in which a woman received terrible injuries and the whole production schedule changed and Alan headed off to other projects. It would be nice to follow that one up again at some point.
The new Transformers movie is currently filming in Chicago. Some aerial filming was recently scheduled and we got advanced notice since it was going to make things a little disrupted in the morning. They were opening three of the bridges along the river and a helicopter was running through at low level filming sequences.
The filming work was being carried out by Alan Purwin of Helinet. Often, when filming is underway, it is hard to get close and get anything recorded. Obviously, they don’t want people filming there own stuff. Also, they don’t want you appearing in the shot. Fortunately, I found a spot where they were happy for us to be and that gave us a view, even if it was a bit restricted.
I actually moved from my first spot. The helicopter was so low I could only just see the top of the rotor head as it passed. The second spot gave a more open view. Watching from that close was very impressive. It took a couple of hours since they had to open up and close down areas between passes. Watching them come in was easy but coming the other way was a bit of guesswork as the helicopter could be heard but only appeared suddenly. Still, another good chance to shoot helicopters in the city. Am I getting repetitive?
Something I haven’t seen for a while is any filming activity around the city. We have two big movies being shot in Chicago this summer but I don’t think I have seen anything of them at work yet (unless this is it). When the filming is underway, you often get a helicopter shooting film from the air. A turret on the nose holds the camera and the mount is operated by someone inside the helicopter while the pilot positions for the shots that are required.
I heard a Eurocopter Astar (Squirrel for non-US readers) flying around (not unusual since the local TV stations use them predominantly) but noticed it was a different aircraft with a more prominent mount. I have seen this Astar doing filming work in the past but not for a while. The sun was getting low but I decided to try and grab some shots as it came around.
Of course, just as I did this, it made a couple more passes and then left. However, it did return later. By now the light was getting very low. I suspect the shots he was getting of the city looked great but it was getting tricky to get anything good of him. However, it is always fun to try.