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.
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.
The answer to that question is clearly “not much” but it isn’t zero. We do get things flying overhead here on a regular basis. We are on the approach to SeaTac for some arrivals and we do sometimes get Boeing Field traffic too. It’s a rarity when there is something interesting and I am ready, though, so that doesn’t provide a lot. However, I did recently have a T-38 from Boeing’s chase fleet come over the house. It was a bit high but it was enough to get me out in the driveway!
We have also had helicopters fly over on occasion. An Army Chinook came past one time while and Navy Seahawk was another transient. In each case, I only heard them shortly before they arrived so grabbed the camera while at my desk and shot through the window. That is not a good plan but it was all I had available at the time. These can count as my lockdown at home aviation projects!
I had a recent post of some shots from the USAF museum at Edwards AFB. It reminded me of my first visit to Edwards in 1990. On that trip I saw both the USAF side of things and the NASA side. The NASA hangars were great and there were lots of amazing types being used for testing purposes. I didn’t see everything I was hoping for there but it was still fantastic. One thing that really excited me was the storage lot. There were some interesting airframes parked up there. An F-8 Crusader that had been used for supercritical wing testing was there. I think that has since been taken care of and is now restored. The fly by wire testbed was also there.
There was also a weird hybrid airframe. I think it was called RSRA which stood for rotor systems research aircraft. This was a hybrid of rotor and fixed wing technologies. One of them was modified for the X-Wing program which was canceled before it could fly. Not sure which one I saw but I think it was the unmodified one. These things could have A-10/S-3 engines fitted to them for higher speed research work. Oh, to have seen one in action. This lot would have been definitely worth some time looking around if it had been possible.
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.
When I got to Olympia for the Olympic Air Show, one of the first things I saw on the ramp was a very serious looking Black Hawk. It was equipped with everything you could think off. The ESSS system was mounted, there was a FLIR turret and a variety of weapons. I was rather curious what unit owned it. It turns out it is a civilian owned machine. Northwest Helicopters is the operator and it is used for filming work. That explains it looking so tooled up. A civil registration is discretely on the tail and it says the machine is actually an EH-60. I’ll have to watch out for it in any movies that are coming up.
Igor Sikorsky is well known as a developer of helicopters even though his early work was based on fixed wing types. The airframe he developed to demonstrate practical rotary flight was the VS-300. This helicopter went through a number of design changes over its life including upgrades to the cyclic system to make it more controllable. When testing with it concluded, it was donated to the Henry Ford museum in Michigan and that is here I saw it. It is a historic landmark and hugely significant. However, it is stacked up in a display behind other artifacts, so it is actually pretty tricky to photograph. I tried making a pano of it to avoid the things in front with some success.
The UH-60 Black Hawk is a pretty neat helicopter but in the standard fit, it is not terribly exciting. However, I do like it when they are kitted up with a lot more stuff. The external stores support system makes them look very purposeful and a flight refueling probe is another good addition. The UH-60JA at Hyakuri had both with tanks fitted to the pylons. It was at the far end of the ramp so, when it took off, I couldn’t get anything worthwhile.
It returned later in the day and came almost directly overhead. Shooting a dark blue/gray helicopter looking straight up on a cloudy day is not a great combination but you aren’t going to ignore it. I wish it had flown a few patterns or even taxied by, but I guess it was not to be. Still, it was good to see it up close.