EAA undertake nationwide tours where they take a Ford Trimotor to local airfields and give people the chance to experience a ride in a plane from another era. One of their regular stops is San Carlos CA. When I saw them operating there on a previous occasion (and posted about it here), they brought an airframe that I had seen a number of times before at Oshkosh and around Illinois. This time they brought a different airframe which is slightly larger and accommodates one extra passenger.
It would have been rude not to pop along at least once to see it in action. It did appear to be slightly larger to my eye but that was not a scientific assessment. The different paint finish was the real giveaway that they had brought something different. The conditions were nice to get some shots. I was planning on catching it again when it came to another local field but the weather ended up being pretty awful so this was my only encounter.
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!
A US Army Boeing CH-47F Chinook taxis out for departure at San Carlos CA.
Nearly twenty years ago, I made a trip to Switzerland to visit the factory of the Pilatus aircraft company. We were working on their PC-9 turboprop trainer that we had supplied to an export customer. While we were walking through the factory, the fuselages of some early PC-12 utility turboprops were in the jigs. At the time I remember thinking that it was a big investment for a relatively small company and wondering how well the project would go.
Come forward to the present day and the foresight of the management team has been rewarded with an excellent sales record. The original PC-12 sold well and the NG version continued that story. They are currently going through another upgrade cycle. The combination of rugged utility, flexible interior configurations and turboprop efficiency has made the PC-12 a popular aircraft around the world. Strangely, it has been less successful in Europe where single engine IFR ops are more heavily regulated.
It is not unusual to see a PC-12 at an airport in the U.S. However, San Carlos proved to be slightly more PC-12 heavy than the average. A small airline called Surfair operates from there with a fleet of the Pilatus plane operating to a variety of destinations in California. While we were there, they had a number of movements (plus one that wasn’t a Surfair aircraft). This meant I could get a lot more PC-12 shots for the library and they aren’t all painted the same colors which is a benefit (although some aren’t painted anything other than white!). I could also take some chances with shutter speed to see what I could get. The PC-12 is not a plane you would call pretty but it is a very practical design and one I am always pleased to see. It takes me back to the hangars in the Swiss Alps a long time ago.
EAA take their Ford Trimotor on tour around the country giving pleasure flights to people at many stops en route. I have seen the plane quite a few times including at Oshkosh and Clow. When Hayman told me it was stopping at San Carlos, it seemed like a good idea to take a trip along to see. It was operating from the ramp at the Hiller Aviation Museum so that is where I started out. Actually, breakfast at the great airport café is where we started!
The early weather was a bit overcast. Gray skies and flat light are not ideal for a metal finish aircraft but we could still enjoy the flying and the start up and shut down as they turned the plane around. It gets off the ground with a very short roll so, given the length of the field and the runway in use, it was well up by the time it came past us. We did experiment shooting down the runway head on. This coincided with the sun coming out so the heat haze suddenly became an issue. Win some, lose some!
After a while, Hayman and I decided we were done for a while. He had other things to do and I wanted to try a couple of other things. However, it did decide to come back later on to get some shots from a different location as the plane was landing which also had the nicest light of the day. Good job to EAA for a great program that was very popular. They had a lot of customers, all of whom seemed to have had a good time.
Most public airports have a variety of types scattered around. The heyday of US light aircraft manufacturing was decades ago and resulted in the production of Cessna, Pipers, Beeches et al in large number. These aircraft are still around but are now aging so the types parked up will often be showing their age. There are light aircraft still being produced today but the numbers are significantly lower. Moreover, they are not cheap so you don’t see so many new planes around. One of the higher end types is the Cirrus. With a nicely equipped example setting you back about half a million dollars, it isn’t a surprise that they are not abundant.
San Carlos, on the other hand, is positively swimming in the things. The peninsula is home to quite a lot of high net worth individuals so this is an area where people are more likely to be able to have a nice shiny Cirrus. Also, there is a distributor on the airfield (no coincidence there!) so the local buyers are likely to choose something they can see at home.
There are some SR20 models in use for training but more seem to be the higher end SR22 models. They are a nice looking plane and one that I would certainly be happy to have a go with. The combination of equipment, control layout and performance would be nice to try and to compare with types I have flown in the past. One day…
A recent arrival at San Carlos is a Dornier 228 that is apparently configured for aerial survey work. The guys mentioned that it had been active prior to my visit but it was not doing much the day I was there. However, it was parked close to the fence. It wasn’t easy to get a shot of it but a bit of reaching above the fence line meant I could at least get something. It is a cool looking plane so I hope I get a chance to see it in action at some point.
Hiller Aviation Museum has another aircraft I find interesting. This is the AD-1 Oblique Wing research aircraft from NASA. I have crossed paths with this machine before. I have seen it at Hiller before but it was also still at Edwards when I paid a visit to the NASA facility there in 1990. The oblique wing concept is an interesting one. Swing wing aircraft aim to combine he low speed and high speed characteristics required into one plane by having multiple wing sweep angles. The oblique wing approach aims to simplify this by having a single wing that pivots. The sweep angle is the same but eh CG is unaffected and the pivot mechanism much simpler.
Forward swept wings are fine so, while the oblique wing looks odd, it should be practical. It will have some interesting aeroelastic issues to be dealt with but, it should be possible to engineer. Whether it will then deliver the benefits has never been tested. The AD-1 was a low speed research aircraft only but it flew many times over the years it was in service. Now it hangs from the roof of the museum.