Airlift Northwest is a regular feature in the Seattle area providing aeromedical services across the region. I have seen their helicopters at both Arlington and Boeing Field numerous times. During the Olympic Air Show at Olympia, I was wandering up towards the hangar where the Huskie was stored when one of the Airlift Northwest EC-135s made its approach. I couldn’t have been better positioned for it so got a bunch of shots as it came in and landed. The UW colors look good on these helicopters.
I went to see Seafair itself for the first time this year. I had been to Boeing Field to watch launches and recoveries before but this was my first time down by Lake Washington for the show. I was down close to Seward Park and, on one of the small bits of land jutting out in to the water was the location that the Coast Guard had parked their MH-65E Dolphin. It was part of the display but I suspect it was also on duty if there were any issues during the show.
I was looking forward to getting shots of it moving but, as a result of a re-planning of a presentation to a client which had been originally scheduled for the day before, I needed to take this call on my day off at the show. The call coincided with the Coast Guard demo. I was sitting on a Teams call on my phone as the Dolphin lifted off right next to me and did a dynamic low transition. Oh to have been able to photograph that!
I did get shots of it on the (sloping) ground and, at the end of the show, they took off to head back to wherever they were overnighting. At least this time, I was able to get shots of them starting up and taking off. Sadly, the departure was far less dynamic than the one for the show. However, there was nothing I could do about that. It was still cool to watch them from relatively close quarters.
Middle Wallop has a café upstairs in the museum and Paul and I retreated there for a little sustenance and some idle banter. On the visitor ramp across from the museum, a Juno helicopter from the training fleet was sitting awaiting its next flight. As we ate, we saw the crew step to the helicopter. For those of you that have followed military aviation, you will know that there was no need to interrupt our food. Unless there is an alert, military aviation happens at a deliberate pace.
After a while, with engines running and rotors turning, we did finally head out to the balcony alongside the taxiway that they would be using. Even this was slightly premature as it was a little longer before the rotors finally generated lift and the Juno got airborne. It then taxied towards us and through the gate to the airfield before turning across the grass and pulling up to depart. A brief addition to the day but a good one. My first Juno!
For a while, I was able to shoot up at Arlington a bit. Our location there in the afternoons is close to the ramp used by Airlift Northwest. They have some Airbus Helicopters EC135s that they use for aeromedical flights. It is a nice looking airframe and theirs are painted well. (They have recently painted one in UW colors which I have only shot from a distance.). They seemed to be in action a lot while I was there so was able to get the teams crewing up, departing, arriving and shutting everything down. They are happy to give you a wave too which is nice.
The forecast for the day of the Amazon lift was not ideal. It was going to be cold and rainy. Just what you want for photographing something and even better when the helicopter you are most interested in is grey! Oh well, what can you do? Things were scheduled to kick off at 7am so I headed up to Arlington early to be ready.
Naturally, like many things aviation related, it didn’t start on time. I suspect there were other things that they had as part of the plan, but we weren’t privy to that so were just waiting for a helicopter to lift off. It was not very cold, but it was definitely cold enough and damp. I should have dressed warmer and trying to get shots at a low shutter speed when you are shivering is not ideal.
One advantage of a crummy weather day is that you can roll the shutter speed right down and not have silly apertures. That means less need for dust spotting later! On the 100-400, I would have just used a polarizer, but I don’t have one for the 500 so was okay with shooting that at the speeds I wanted to try for.
The Astar was the first to lift. The initial lifts were very slow, but things improved a little as the crews on the roof got into the groove. The Astar was obviously doing the smaller lifts, but it still has significant capabilities and was taking up some big pieces of equipment. Watching it bucking around in the turbulence over the roof as the wind picked up was quite eye opening. I got stills but, since the conditions were not great, I instead went with a bunch of videos. The stills just won’t be that exciting, but video gives you more context.
It was quite a while before the S-61 started up. We had a few false starts when the Astar appeared to land but it was just swapping out lifting lines. Finally, the S-61 got airborne and it started lifting the heavier loads. We had heard that about 50 lifts were planned for the S-61 and 30 for the Astar. After getting some shots and footage, I headed to a few different locations to see whether they had a better angle on things. You never know which bit of the roof will be the site of the next load so a location might be good for a bit and then too far away and obscured. More importantly, I was getting pretty bloody cold. If conditions had been nicer, I would probably have been inclined to hang around a lot longer, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I figured I had enough, and it was time to head home and get warm. I think they extended the NOTAM so things must have taken longer than intended but I was long gone by the time that they finished.
I am not sure of the reasons why, but Croman moved both of the helicopters used for the Amazon lift over to the site the day before the operation. They were a short distance from Arlington but apparently there was a reason to not start from the airport. Fortunately, they did this late in the afternoon after the Astar had arrived. I had moved across to a parking lot near the site ahead of time hoping to be in a good spot to get them arriving and also to see whether it would be good for the lift itself.
Both helicopters approached my side of Amazon prior to landing. This meant I got a good head on view of them and a reasonable view as they approached landing. They did, unfortunately, go directly over my head which limited the shots a little but still wasn’t too bad. The sun was more on their tails as they made their final approach which wasn’t ideal, but it was the side I was on so could have been worse. They landed behind some concrete walls so disappeared from view as they went in. The S-61 was first followed by the Astar. Now to see how the lift itself went.
These shots are from a few years ago. I had the privilege to spend a day with the late Alan Purwin during the filming for one of the Transformers movies in Chicago. I got to fly with them on some of the shoot but I also was on the ground when they went off on part of the filming. I put myself directly ahead of the Astar when they took off and Alan buzzed me. I noticed when going through the images that the cameraman was tracking me with the stabilized mount on the nose as they flew over the top.
Erickson is a company that you certainly associate with helicopters but normally you would think about the Skycrane. They also use airframes from other manufacturers. This Super Puma was sitting on their ramp at Medford. I’m not sure whether it is used for heavy lift work, firefighting or a bit of both. It was not what I expected to see though!
While on vacation on Big Island, I took a helicopter flight across the island. Other posts will include some of the shots from that flight. However, this is just to give credit to the helicopter itself. I flew with Sunshine Helicopters in one of their EC130s. I imagine the name has changed now that Eurocopter has gone through a couple of brand transitions under the Airbus umbrella.
This was my first ride in a 130. It is a popular airframe on the islands. Eurocopter took the Astar (Squirrel/Ecureuil) as a base and, given that tour operators were squeezing 6 passengers in, they came up with a fuselage that provided comfortable space and lots of window space so that the performance of the airframe could be matched with the level of comfort required. They succeeded in my experience. I should point out I was up front. There are two passenger seats up front alongside the pilot and four in the back. I felt like I had a ton of space to relax and the view was pretty impressive. Whether the middle of the back is as good, I don’t know but everyone seemed to have a really good time. It seems like an airframe designed with something specific in mind and it seems to fulfill the role really well.
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.