While the CAF Reliant was refueling at Arlington, the unmistakable sound of a Huey could be made out. Snohomish County operates a Huey so my initial thought was this might be it. As it flew towards us, I realized it was one of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Hueys that are used for firefighting operations. It flew low over the field and passed where we were. Then I got a lot more interested as it turned towards us. It was coming in for fuel and I was by the fuel tanks!
They turned in nice and close to us and I was able to get a bunch of shots. After shutting down, I chatted to some of the team and they explained they were heading north to relieve another helicopter that was up at a local firefighting base. With them preparing to depart, I figured I would try and get some video along with stills. I thought I had set up one camera on the ground to get the take off sequence but it turns out I had not hit the right button sequence and I ended up missing the majority of the departure. Oh well. I did still get to shoot the stills I was after.
The Bolt Creek fire brought a load of helicopters in to fight the fire and they were based at Harvey Field in Snohomish. A while after I got there that weekend, one of the UH-1s fired up. This was Rotor One, a county operated helicopter. It took off and turned over me before heading east. It turns out it was looking to see how the conditions were. Visibility looked awful and, judging by whatever Rotor One reported, that was the case everywhere. None of the other helicopters ever got moving. The conditions were just too bad.
After talking to someone that flew for the operator, I found myself checking through some older shots of the Olympic Air Show with the Hueys doing flight demonstrations. As I scrolled through the shots, I saw that, of the two crew, one was busy flying the helicopter and the other was playing with their phone. I imagine that they were filming the display but I preferred the idea that the whole thing was too boring and they were just checking out messages instead.
Let’s head back to the summer and the Olympic Air Show in Olympia. This is a show that often has a helicopter theme but this year it had an extra rotary element that was cool to watch. Earlier in the day, I had been looking across the field to where a selection of Hueys were parked up. These belong to the Department of Natural Resources for the State of Washington. What I hadn’t realized was that they were going to be part of the flying display.
Two of the Hueys took part. They undertook a demonstration of aerial firefighting techniques. While both helicopters were fitted with the underfuselage tank, one was configured to use the tank while the other was set up with a Bambi bucket. A large water container – looked like a giant paddling pool to me – had been set up at the far end of the field. Why they chose to put it so far away from the public I don’t know.
The helicopters took it in turns to fill up with water, either with a snorkel or by dunking the bucket. They then went to the opposite end of the field and demonstrated different techniques for dropping water on the fire. These would include a direct run overhead, a vertical drop, a toss maneuver and so on. Each Huey would use the technique with the only variation for each cycle being the difference between the integral tank and the bucket.
Everything was a bit distant from the crowd so it was stretching the capabilities of the lenses (and the dope holding them) but it was one of the times that you were grateful for it not being too sunny since the heat haze was barely an issue. It would have been fun to have it all a bit closer to the crowd but it was still a good demonstration of the capabilities the Department has for dealing with wildfires, something that was, no doubt, put to good use later in the year.
One weekend, I was at Boeing Field for a visiting warbird. I was pleasantly surprised to see some US Marine Corps helicopters across the field too. A combination of UH-1Y Venoms and AH-1Z Vipers were on the ramp. I had no idea if or when they would fly. However, luck was on my side as a Venom/Viper pair fired up and launched on a training mission. The rest stayed on the ramp while I was there but this pair taxied out to the main runway and then departed past my location. A nice extra!
What I thought was a JetRanger came in to BFI one evening. The color scheme looked a little odd and the markings had a bit of a military feel about it. Once I got home, I looked up the registration to see who the operator was. It turns out it was a JetRanger – sort of. It was actually a retired TH-67 Creek which King County Sheriff’s department had bought. They obviously haven’t repainted it. I wonder whether they will.
My day off work to go plane hunting continued to provide interesting things for me. I had noticed a UH-1 Huey on FlightRadar24 while looking for something else. It was off to the east and had been circling various locations. I assumed it was a firefighting mission and thought no more about it. Actually it was the King County Sheriff’s airframe and, while I was at Boeing Field, it made an approach and landed at Modern Aviation’s ramp. It was a bit distant but I got some shots of it and thought no more.
A while later, I was at Renton awaiting the arrival of the A-26 when I heard the distinctive sound of the Huey again. This time it was close over the top of me and just to the sunny side so rather backlit. I figured I would shoot it again anyway at which point it commenced a tight descending turn to land on the field. It came right around me so I got shots all the way – particularly as it got to the right side for the light. To be honest, it was a little close to me for a good angle but this day was throwing me tons of opportunities and I was not going to complain.
I have seen plenty of MV-22B Ospreys in service with the Marine Corps but I haven’t see too many CV-22s with the Air Force. One of the early ones was at Hurlburt Field when I visited years ago but we weren’t allowed to photograph it. RIAT provided my first opportunity to shoot one in action. I got some shots of it on arrival day but I was not pleased with the results for a lot of them. I don’t know whether the focus was off or it was my struggles with the low shutter speed but I didn’t do too well.
They did display during the flying program, though, so I had a lot more chances to get some shots. The extra lumps and bumps make this distinctive from the USMC version but it is still a hard thing to photograph if you want to get significant blur on those giant, slow turning props. The different shade of gray they go with seems slightly more interesting than the Marine’s scheme too.
Helicopters are constantly moving around McCarran. There are tourist rides operating seemingly around the clock so hearing a couple of helps is not a surprise. However, these two were close to each other and seemed to have a more powerful sound. It turned out that they were two USMC AH-1Z Vipers coming in to an FBO. Paul was able to try and get some shots as they landed but I had to move the car. I settled for watching them for a bit and then got the camera as they were shutting down. It was unbelievably dark given how much ambient light there is in Vegas so I was pushing the camera’s capabilities a bit. The closer one shut down first which was unfortunate but let’s not get picky. They were still there the following morning when we were shooting departures as I could see them in the background of some shots.
The Cobra is still a big part of Marine Corps aviation with the Zulu model the current favorite as it replaces the previous Whiskey models. However, the Cobra started out life as an Army attack helicopter. While they are long retired from Army service, old examples still are airworthy and one of them was performing at the Olympia air show. I was rather pleased to see it when it initially arrived and then it performed a flying display alongside a Huey.
A lightly loaded Cobra is still an agile beast and this one was being thrown around with some zeal. Unfortunately, the sky was rather overcast so the shape was a bit disguised by the shadows but it was still great to see the narrow fuselage combined with the broad chord rotor as it thrashed its way around the display. What a cool looking machine.