Just up the road from Brewster Airport is another collection of vintage helicopters. Monse has some even older airframes. I was a little disappointed at first because I thought that they were going to be R-5s but, when I got there, I came across a bunch of immaculate S-55s. There may have been an R-5 in there too because I could see the tail of something different. Most of what I could see was S-55s, though.
Each of them looked in fantastic condition. They all had individual paint schemes that looked flawless so there was little to be disappointed about. I could shoot what I could see from the road outside the entrance to the driveway. Again the signage did not encourage visitors so I decided against walking up the driveway to see whether they would let me shoot the collection up close. It certainly would be good to visit in more detail though.
The UH-34 wasn’t the only helicopter flying at Brewster. As I was driving towards the exit, I heard the sound of a turbine whining. I pulled over to the side of the road and saw that the Life Flight helicopter was running up. I headed to a piece of higher ground that overlooked their space. The Agusta 119 Koala was sitting on a trailer and warming up. It then pulled up in to a hover and transitioned to the grass. A moment later, back to the hover and back to the trailer. This was repeated a couple of times. It didn’t seem like they were actually going flying unfortunately. As they ran down the RPMs, I figured it was time to move on again.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my visit to Brewster to see the S-58/UH-34s was not one during which I was expecting to see anything flying. As I drove up, you can imagine my surprise to see a UH-34 in pristine Marine Corps markings hovering in front of me. It transitioned away as I pulled in to the airport so I was pretty annoyed thinking I was just too late to see it. However, I was wrong. They were doing pattern work and, while I don’t know how long that they had been flying already, they were not finished.
I parked the car and grabbed the camera as they came downwind and turned in to approach from a high position. The next couple of approaches seemed to be autorotation training. Each run around the pattern gave me a bit more time to get to a better position from which to get some shots. Initially, there was a building in the way but I was able to move to a spot with a clear view of the action without going anywhere I shouldn’t have been.
As I had managed to grab some shots, I figured I would switch to some video while I was at it. I didn’t get much video but enough to put together one composite circuit of the flying. That video is on YouTube as seen below. They then landed and taxied back to their ramp where, after a suitable cooling off period, they shut down. I was tempted to hang around to see if they flew again but I had a long day planned ahead of me and wanted to make sure I got everything in so I decided, after a short while, to continue on my way.
After leaving Brewster on my road trip, I was heading a short distance to the next town of Monse. A short unpaved road would take me there but along this road was something I had not expected. A bloody great deep space antenna was right next to the road. As I pulled up alongside it, there was a sign announcing that is was part of a large array of receivers around the world. The sign outside also asked you to turn off your cellphone if you entered since the signals could interfere with their reception. If I had known it was there and that you might be able to visit, I might have planned a stop but I had a full schedule ahead of me so I briefly paused before moving on.
Up on the hill behind the receiver was quite an array of antennas. A look on Google Maps suggests it is part of a cable company’s operation but it does look a little more complex than that. Maybe it does some secret squirrel stuff or maybe I am letting my imagination run away with me!
My road trip on a day off was not just a chance to have a day doing something different from the normal working from home during lockdown but was also a chance to check out something I had been meaning to do since moving to the Pacific Northwest. I was aware of helicopter operators that used the helicopters to dry fruit – cherries is what I had heard – and were keeping a bunch of vintage airframes in service to meet this need. What I had read about was S-58/UH-34s being used in Brewster.
This was my first stop on my road trip. It took a little over three hours to get there but there was very little traffic and the drive across the Cascades was a nice way to start the day. I was not anticipating much activity as I had assumed the season was over and so anything there would be parked up. I was not entirely right about that but more of that to come in another post.
The airport has a ton of airframes on site. Many of them look to be maintained in airworthy condition. A variety of colors suggest the sourcing of airframes from wherever it was practical to get them. Unlike my time working with Midwest Helicopters, none of these airframes appeared to be turbine powered. They still seemed to have the piston powerplants. The airworthy looking helicopters were parked in an orderly fashion around the site. There were also some spare airframes. I don’t know whether these have been robbed for parts, are awaiting restoration or have had issues but they are stored out in the open. There also appeared to be some other components stored outside. I suspect this means they need work and maybe the serviceable parts are under cover.
I would certainly like to learn more about the operation. The signage was not encouraging visitors but I did get a wave from someone driving out of the place. I decided not to just wander up based on the notices around but it would be good to get back out there some time and learn more about their operations, history and the sources of the helicopters. It would be an interesting article to put together.
I made a bit of a road trip recently. I decided a day off work was in order and I had some aviation themed things I wanted to see so I set out early. My first stop was in a town called Brewster. The airport in Brewster is up on a bluff above the Okanogan River where it merges with the Columbia River. On a sunny August day, the view across the river was really nice. An island under the bluff provided some interest and the view across the wider section of river to the opposite bank was very nice.
There were plenty of boats on the river. It looked like they were busy fishing as everyone seemed to be in formation across the width of the river. I assume it was fishing that they had in mind but don’t know for certain. A tranquil spot for sure. A house on the waterfront would look appealing but it is a serious hike to get there from any centers of population so I doubt I will be contemplating moving anytime.