Erickson has a B-17 as part of its collection. However, while Ye Olde Pub was sitting outside during my visit, there was a second B-17 on site. This is Thunderbird and it is undergoing some major airframe work. The fuselage was sitting on stands directly in front of you when you entered the hangar. The wings and empennage were in racks around it.
I don’t know what the schedule is for sorting out this aircraft but people seemed to be busy working on it so I assume it will be back in the air before too long. I did enjoy sneaking around trying to find good views of all of the parts that were stored awaiting their return to their rightful place on the airframe. Madras is quite a hike for me but it might be good to go back when they get the plane back in the air. It sounds like the sort of thing that Matt Booty might get down to photograph. Maybe I can be his assistant!
We were standing out to the east of the runway at Klamath Falls when the Erickson team was practicing their display ahead of the show at Sentry Eagle. I was looking in the wrong direction when someone called out that the Bearcat was diving in on us. I swung around and pulled the camera up at the last minute. Needless to say, I did not get the greatest shots of the plane but it was coming right at me so I will go with the best I could get. It was pretty cool having a Bearcat buzz right over my head!
Erickson currently flies a bunch of MD-87s are firefighting jets. However, these are a relatively recent addition to the service and they have replaced Douglas DC-7s. The DC-7s were still in service when I first made a visit to Madras in 2015 but they have now been retired. However, three of the airframes are stored on the ramp at Madras and we took a look around to see how they were fairing.
They looked in great condition. The dry atmosphere at Madras is good for storing aircraft. Some engines have been removed but the three jets are in the most recent paint finish and parked in a line. They make for an interesting subject. I have no idea how far from airworthy they are should anyone want to get any of them flying again (aside from the engines that have been removed) but they look like they have been taken care of. I would have loved to have seen one airborne but sadly, that time has passed.
Erickson’s facility at Medford was the home for this Skycrane while I was there. A team were working on it and, I imagine, they were getting it ready for the coming fire season. At this point, though, it was still in need of a few parts. It looked a bit lacking but I suspect the process of adding the remaining elements to get it back into an airworthy condition was not going to take that long. Hopefully by now she is back in the air and working hard.
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 I was walking around the display line of the Airshow of the Cascades during the evening show, the Erickson collection’s P-38 was carrying out its display. I was in amongst a lot of people when the announcer told everyone to be ready for a special pass. My location was not great but I got ready as the P-38 ran in for a topside pass expecting the detonation of some pyrotechnics behind it. Nothing happened. The P-38 flew by and no explosions.
A short while later, the announcer had a second crack at getting us ready for the pass. Obviously the first pass had not worked as planned. This time the P-38 was coming in from the opposite direction. I also had a few moments to try and reposition myself to get a better view. This shot was the result. Some of my friends were further up the display line and got a different angle on the shot which was cool. Even so, I am pretty happy with this.
I attended a course recently that was held in Madras OR at the home of the Erickson Air Museum. This museum is a fantastic collection of vintage aircraft, some of which were used for the course, more of which will appear on this blog in due course. At various times while we were there, I had the opportunity to wander around the museum and see the collection. This included during the evening when a party was underway but which also meant they had some interesting illumination.
The majority of the aircraft are warbirds but not all of them. A Bellanca was present which is, to be generous, a most unusual looking aircraft. I would certainly have liked to have seen it outside had the opportunity arisen but that wasn’t to be. There was also a Martin Mauler which is an aircraft I had never heard of previously. It looks like a Skyraider but you could tell it was different. It was just hard to know what it was without checking the information on the display.
Madras is not on the trail for most people so I imagine the museum does not have a lot of people happening upon it. However, it is a nice facility with a great collection and a super bunch of people working there. If you like warbirds and vintage aircraft, it should definitely be visited at some point.
I previously posted an item about the DC-7 tanker that was parked up on the Erickson ramp. Over the course of the few days we were there, this aircraft had a few visits from me. It’s positioning was not always ideal for what I wanted. The evening light was often great for photos but, sadly, the aircraft was almost exactly tail on to the setting sun. However, that did provide some silhouette options as well as playing with HDR to see if I could come up with something I liked.
One morning the sun came up as there was still some rain in the area. There was some good light on the nose for a while but the best option was the rainbow that formed in the background and was well aligned with the aircraft. I tried a variety of things over the days and some of those results are here. Of course, it would have been far more fun to see it in action!
Firefighting aircraft have often been older airframes converted for the task when their primary life is over. This has meant a lot of old piston types -both civil and military – have become tankers. Now there is a generation of jet airliners that are becoming viable candidates for conversion. I previously posted some shots of a BAe146 tanker. Erickson has been active in converting McDonnell Douglas MD-87 airframes to tankers and has a number already in service.
Dominating the flight line outside the Erickson hangars was a line of three MD-87s that had been acquired from Spain. They appeared to have come from a couple of operators and we sitting in storage. Most apertures were taped up and some panels/doors had been removed. However, these airframes are not destined to be parts donors. All of them are scheduled for conversion to tankers. Before too long they will be active supporting firefighting efforts across the country. The introduction of modern jet types to service should provide increased performance and the ability to respond faster to situations further away. They should provide a welcome boost to firefighting capability.
I’m not sure when I first became aware of the PBY Catalina but I am pretty sure it involved a plastic model that a friend of mine had. (Kev Fry, was it you?) Flying boats always appealed to me and the blisters on the rear fuselage caught my eye even at that time. Erickson has a PBY in the collection and it was going to feature in our program. However, my first encounter with it was as it was parked up on the ramp outside the hangar.
I was walking around in the early evening light and the paint scheme seemed to glow in the low sun. It is a big beast so there are lots of options as you walk around it. Whatever shot you want to get, you do want something that emphasizes the hull shape since that is one of the defining characteristics of the plane. Sometimes, getting in really close can achieve that.
You do want to check out multiple angles, though. Whether it is the nose shape, the wheels and wheelwells or the rear blisters, there is something from any direction worthy of a look. Whether they will all be great shots is a different story. However, having the chance to shoot one when hardly anyone is around is a chance not to be passed on.