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.
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.
A combat search and rescue element is usually included in Red Flag. The HH-60 Pave Hawk is the usual resource used whether from the locally based unit or from a visiting outfit. When you are set up for the jet action, the helos don’t tend to come anywhere near you. They depart perpendicular to the runways and then head off on course. Two things were different for me on this visit. At one point Paul and I were checking out some other areas when the Hawks launched. We were pretty much directly in the flightpath so we got a good look at the pair as they flew over and headed off to the ranges.
The other change was that on both days we were there, they turned early and flew out directly over our location at the Speedway en route to their exercise are. I hadn’t seen this before. I was surprised the first time and even more so the second. I assume this was good luck on our part to have them come so close but maybe they were actually following us rather than the other way around?
I was directly under the flightpath of an HH-60 Pave Hawk as it headed out on a mission. Looking up at the helo as it passed over, it was possible to see the feet of the crewman/gunner. What I didn’t realize until I looked at the photos afterwards was that he was waving at me! I wish I had waved back. Given the large weapon mounted to the side of the airframe that he uses in action, I am glad that waving is what he chose to do!
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.
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.