Anyone that has vacationed in the Hawaiian Islands knows that there are loads of helicopters around. The sightseeing flight operations are extensive and there are a variety of types that are used. The Astar was a big feature of these flights but the EC130 was developed to provide something best suited to these flights and it is now very widespread. There are other types in use too. I used a Robinson R44 for one of my flights for example.
There are the occasional MD500s around too which is what you expect to see if you ever watched the original Magnum PI TV series. The helicopter area at Lihue was a busy place to be with a steady stream of operators moving from the different pads. I wasn’t on vacation to spend time watching helicopters but of course I managed to slip a little time in with them!
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.
Erickson is a company that you certainly associate with helicopters but normally you would think about the Skycrane. They also use airframes from other manufacturers. This Super Puma was sitting on their ramp at Medford. I’m not sure whether it is used for heavy lift work, firefighting or a bit of both. It was not what I expected to see though!
While on vacation on Big Island, I took a helicopter flight across the island. Other posts will include some of the shots from that flight. However, this is just to give credit to the helicopter itself. I flew with Sunshine Helicopters in one of their EC130s. I imagine the name has changed now that Eurocopter has gone through a couple of brand transitions under the Airbus umbrella.
This was my first ride in a 130. It is a popular airframe on the islands. Eurocopter took the Astar (Squirrel/Ecureuil) as a base and, given that tour operators were squeezing 6 passengers in, they came up with a fuselage that provided comfortable space and lots of window space so that the performance of the airframe could be matched with the level of comfort required. They succeeded in my experience. I should point out I was up front. There are two passenger seats up front alongside the pilot and four in the back. I felt like I had a ton of space to relax and the view was pretty impressive. Whether the middle of the back is as good, I don’t know but everyone seemed to have a really good time. It seems like an airframe designed with something specific in mind and it seems to fulfill the role really well.
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.
Two rescue helicopters were on show at Heli Fest. The 129RQW from Moffett Field had brought along one of their Pave Hawk helicopters while head the other way up the peninsula and you get the Coast Guard based at SFO with their MH-65 Dolphins. If you find yourself in need of helicopter based assistance in the Bay Area, one of these units will probably be sent to help you. The Coast Guard unit will be the first to respond. However, if you are further offshore, the Pave Hawk may be the one tasked. If they are training nearby, they may just be the easiest ones to send.
Whichever unit and aircraft it is, you will, no doubt, be really pleased to see them. Both helicopters were popular with the visitors. They had long lines of people waiting to take a look and talk to the crews. I was chatting with the Coast Guard guys about their planned departure time. They were way too optimistic. The line of people was still big when they originally planned to go. Eventually, they had to put someone in place to mark the end of the line. They were still turning people away but they needed to clean up, check the airframe and get going at some point!
The Pave Hawk did a nice job of taxiing out of the confined space in which it had been parked. Both of them made nice passes prior to heading off. The Dolphin is a sleek looking airframe so it looked pretty cool as it made its pass. Good job by both crews for having dealt with so many visitors during the day.
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.
My flight over LAX was intended to get lots of shots of airliners. We did also get a little benefit. For the time being, the Coast Guard have a base at LAX. They will be moving soon but, until that point, operations continue as normal. One of their MH-65 Dolphins returned to base while we were airborne. ATC vectored them behind us and around to land on their pad. We managed to yaw around to provide an angle on them as they came in.
Shooting the Dolphin was a bit harder than some of the other aircraft. I was using a 100-400 lens which was fine for the jets when I could keep the shutter speed up high to compensate for any motion or vibration. However, dropping the shutter speed for the rotors, even if I didn’t take it too low, meant a very high failure rate on the shots. Even then, we were still a reasonable distance away which didn’t help. A few of the shots are passable. However, they won’t handle too much scrutiny. I’m glad we got them though since they will be gone if I go back for another shoot.
The EC-145 is an helicopter I have yet to decide about. A bigger type than the EC-135, I am not sure it carries the extra size as gracefully as it could. It has a slightly bug-like look to it I think. The most recent updates have added a Fenestron to replace the tail rotor. That can sometimes be a good thing but on this type it seems like they have picked a slightly larger unit from the parts bin by mistake. The fin section seems pretty large. Even so, I am not totally against it. It certainly seems smooth and quiet as it flies by. This one did look kind of cool…