The visitor that came the longest distance for Heli Fest is probably the MH-60S that the US Navy sent from North Island NAS down on Coronado Island near San Diego. They had needed one fuel stop to get there with a transit of about four hours each way. As with all of the military assets on show, they got a lot of attention from the visitors. The aircraft was open for anyone to check out and the kids certainly seemed interested. Since they had come so far, they were not just having a day visit. They had arrived the day before and were not heading back until the following day. Consequently, while everyone else was departing, they were locking up the helicopter for an overnight stop.
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.
San Carlos Airport is home to the Hiller Aviation Museum. In times past they used to have an event called Vertical Challenge. It was a big gathering of all things rotary winged. Sadly, the challenge ended but the current team is trying to reestablish something similar. They have a smaller gathering called Heli Fest and I went along to shoot with the team for this year’s event. It was a normal day for admissions to the museum but the arrival of a lot of different airframes provided a lot more to see so the visitor numbers were significantly up.
The biggest visitor was a Boeing CH-47F Chinook for the National Guard unit at Stockton. They carried out a few passes before landing. Since the airframe is a little large and has quite a rotor diameter, they shut down on the ramp and were towed in to their parking spot. Once in place, they were open t visitors to come and look through the helicopter and talk to the crew.
No surprise that there was a steady stream of people checking out the Chinook during the course of the day. It is a great looking machine and the crew was busy answering questions throughout the day. When things were wrapping up, they taxied out and took off. A flyby was a necessity prior to going home. The Chinook is a very fast helicopter to the pass was pretty zippy!