When I went up to McClellan for the firefighting conference, I got to see the HC-27J airframes that had been transferred to the Coast Guard. They will replace the C-130 airframes that they have been using. I posted about that airframe in this post. I was recently staying back up in the area so decided to see what was happening at the field. The Coast Guard has now started repainting the airframes so now they are showing up in their own colors rather than being in the grayness which they were transferred. There was also a C-130 parked up. It didn’t look too active. I assume it will be heading off for firefighting conversion 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.
I wrote about the arrival of the C-27J Spartan in Coast Guard service. This means that the C-130s are going to be heading out. One the same day I saw a Spartan flying, one of the current C-130s took off. It was a nice illustration of what is now and what will be. I have seen the Coast Guard 130s around on a number of occasions but I guess they will soon be gone. Maybe I shall see them fighting fires somewhere.
Defense acquisition programs are not renowned for being the most efficient and sensible programs. Selection of products and suppliers is heavily influenced by politics and locations along with the technical capabilities. Some programs have momentum due to their joint use nature. This doesn’t always mean that the departments involved actually like them. Such is the case of the Alenia C-27J Spartan. Based on the older G222 airframe but updated with the same engines as the C-130J, the aircraft was selected for the Joint Cargo Aircraft program between the USAF and the Army.
Eventually, control of the program was moved from the Army to an Air Force only program. Meanwhile, the Air Force was not showing a lot of love for the aircraft. They had other programs they were more interested in. The result was that aircraft started getting delivered to storage and the Air Force was looking for a way out. That way is the Coast Guard. These aircraft will replace some old C-130s in Coast Guard service and the displaced aircraft will go for firefighting duties. The Coast Guard station at Sacramento has received its first aircraft. I saw one of them head out on a training flight while another could be seen in the hangar. Apparently, they will soon be repainted in Coast Guard colors and the 130s will start to head off to their new life. It will probably be unusual in due course to have a C-27J in Coast Guard markings but in the gray color scheme.
My flight over LAX was intended to get lots of shots of airliners. We did also get a little benefit. For the time being, the Coast Guard have a base at LAX. They will be moving soon but, until that point, operations continue as normal. One of their MH-65 Dolphins returned to base while we were airborne. ATC vectored them behind us and around to land on their pad. We managed to yaw around to provide an angle on them as they came in.
Shooting the Dolphin was a bit harder than some of the other aircraft. I was using a 100-400 lens which was fine for the jets when I could keep the shutter speed up high to compensate for any motion or vibration. However, dropping the shutter speed for the rotors, even if I didn’t take it too low, meant a very high failure rate on the shots. Even then, we were still a reasonable distance away which didn’t help. A few of the shots are passable. However, they won’t handle too much scrutiny. I’m glad we got them though since they will be gone if I go back for another shoot.