The Bell 206 JetRanger was an immensely successful single turbine helicopter and was ubiquitous for decades. However, the type was dated and more modern helicopters had come along and taken market share. Bell needed to come up with a solution and that was the Bell 505 which has since become branded as the Jet Ranger X. The project was not as smooth as intended but it has now entered more widespread service.
That didn’t mean I had actually seen one, though, until recently when I got to photograph one at Boeing Field. At this point, trouble has reached the program again with fatigue failures in the controls for the right seat meaning you aren’t supposed to fly one solo from that seat until a redesigned control is fitted. This will get addressed, of course, but it is another issue for the type. The example I saw was marked as Experimental so I wonder what purpose it was being used for. According to the FAA, it is registered to Bell but what it is doing is anybody’s guess. Putting aside its technical issues, my biggest problem with the 505 is that I think it doesn’t look very good. It reminds me of a tadpole and seems to have a slight feel of a toy design compared to the other types in this class (or the original JetRanger). That is not going to make or break it of course – just a personal observation.
The evening departure of the C-32 was covered in this previous post. I hinted then about the arrival of some of the passengers. I’m not sure where they had been visiting but they returned Ina. Three ship of Black Hawks. Some of those who had been around earlier in the day had seen the departure and apparently it followed the same process.
The three ship of Black Hawks flew downwind on the west side of the field having approached from the south. They then turned to final in a stream, descending to a lower level and flying the length of the runway prior to setting down near the fire station and close to the awaiting C-32. Since it was late in the day, the light on them was really nice once they were over the field (conversely, they were seriously backlit while downwind).
After dropping off their passengers, they pulled up and departed back to the south, presumably heading towards JBLM. I haven’t seen any UH-60s for a while so this was a nice change from the norm. It was also fun looking at the crew on board with the helmet and face masks as they looked back at us. Hopefully they didn’t mind being photographed too much!
Quite a few years back, I was at Van Nuys when the Children’s Hospital Sikorsky S-76 flew over on final approach. I found out a little while later that this helicopter had been donated by Helinet. I found this while talking to Alan Purwin who ran the company prior to his death. It was a nice looking helicopter which isn’t hard since the S-76, while an old design, is a sleek looking machine.
I made a detour recently to Anacortes airport, purely because I had never been there before. Nothing much was going on but, stored at one end of the airfield was this S-76. It looked exactly the same. The registration had been changed but zooming in on the airframe, I could just make out the outline of the old numbers. Sure enough, it is the same airframe. Clearly, it isn’t looking like it is going anywhere soon but it did provide years of good service.
A non floatplane visitor to the Splash In at Clear Lake one year was a Bell 407 that was used for EMS work. It flew in and landed in the parking lot next to the area where the planes were parked after coming out of the water. At some point, early in the day, I heard it firing up. Apparently it had been called out on a mission. Off it went, sadly not to return for the rest of the day.
While at Boeing Field on a sunny day, I was pleased to see a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk flying along the runway. MH-65s are the local Coast Guard helicopters so a Jayhawk is a nice change. Having seen the MH-65s doing a fly through before, I was hoping that we would get the same but they actually pulled up and turned in the the FBO. However, once on the ramp, the kept rotors running so I knew they would be out again soon.
When they did come out, they actually back taxied to the far end of the field. I would have been a lot happier with them making an intersection departure closer to me but that wasn’t to be for some reason. Consequently, they had gained a fair bit of altitude by the time they came level with me. A belly shot was not what I was after but never mind. The underside view gives a good view on the three external tanks that the Jayhawk can carry. That gives some serious range when heading far offshore to rescue someone in need.
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.
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 put together a selection of shots from the RIAT show of 2006 in this post. It was another four years before I was back for my next visit. This time I made a visit to the Park and View East rather than the west. This was the end at which everything was landing, and it also provided a good view of some of the arrivals as they taxied to the ramp.
The weather started out okay, but it got steadily worse resulting ion a torrential downpour. Some movements were in such low light that it was almost like shooting at night. The stormy weather passed and then the flying could resume. Given the variety of things that were showing up, I will focus this post on the arrival traffic, and we can add some of the displays in a different post.
Plenty of helicopters as well as the fast jets. I had not shot at this location before and I was not prepared for how crowded it could be and the way you needed to be at the front. That limited some of my shots unfortunately. Also, there was a lot of heat haze in the air so some of the nicer angles on the approach produced shots that are not sharp enough. Still, a fun day out. Drying out took a while that night though!