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.
Our journey home from Tofino involved a ferry crossing from Nanaimo. We left plenty of time to get across the island as a result of some construction activity and, of course, we made it across easily. We were to early to check in for the ferry so waited in Nanaimo for a while. As we sat in the car, I saw an S-76 from HeliJet coming in to land. I had forgotten that HeliJet flew to Nanaimo as well as Victoria. Missing the arrival was annoying as they aren’t too frequent and there wouldn’t be another until after we had gone to the ferry.
However, departure on the return leg was not for a while so we headed around to the heliport. I assume it is a recent construction because it is a very modern looking building. The S-76 was parked on the pad right by the parking lot and with only a low fence unlike Victoria. It was a bit rainy so I stayed in the car until they loaded up. After start up and letting everything stabilize, they pulled up and headed out over the water en route to Vancouver. This might be a good spot on a sunny day!
The Helinet S-76s are something I am always looking out for. I have seen them many times although the shots have sometimes left me wanting something better. While I was last in Stanley Park, I got to see a lot of their movements. The best bit was that, on some occasions, they flew pretty close overhead me. I was able to get some shots I was pretty happy with.
I could watch them descend to the heliport on the other side of the harbor but that was a long way off. The climb outs sometimes came close but the arrivals were the best. I was quite surprised by the gear lowering sequence with the mains seeming to pop out like they were on springs. No slow and steady deployment for these guys.
The Sikorsky S-76 is not a new design any more although it does continue to be upgraded. When I first saw the type in the 80s, I was taken with the elegance of the airframe and also the size of it. It can carry a substantial number of people. This is the reason the HeliJet chose it to operate their service from the waterfront in Vancouver to Victoria I imagine. I have seen them in service a number of times but I have never gone down to their heliport by the water to try and shoot them.
While I was at Brockton Point, a couple of their departures and arrivals came by. These were a bit far away but still worthy of a shot. This wasn’t my only chance though. When we were at Vancouver International, one of the S-76s arrived at the HeliJet facility there. It flew low and slow past where I was standing so I was able to grab a few extra shots of these sleek type. I would love to take a ride in one sometime to see whether it is as smooth as it looks.
Our trip to Vancouver was not one for me to spend time photographing aviation. However, I did manage to sneak some shots in while I was there. Watching the floatplane operations was a lot of fun but it meant I didn’t get to go to the heliport further along the shoreline. This was fine by me but I did still see some of the Helijet S-76s as they departed and arrived since they came across the harbor albeit at a distance. I grabbed a few images for now. I guess I have multiple reasons for making a return trip to Vancouver before too long. I know Nancy won’t object to returning! Better not mention the helicopters just yet though.