Tag Archives: helicopter

Airlift Northwest EC135 Is Busy

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.


Various Ways To Stitch A Panorama

Lightroom has three methods for stitching the panoramas together.  I tend to use one but for some shots, a different style is beneficial.  I was flipping through some shots of an HH-101 Caesar helicopter that I took at RIAT in 2019.  I also had a Danish AW101 that I had shot in pano format.  The Danish airframe had not been shot as well as it could have been and I did not have sufficient coverage.  I decided to try different versions of the stitching to see which one gave the best result.  Some result in a more natural look while others look more fish eyed.  I can also stitch in Photoshop which gives me more capability for filling in gaps but, with the tricky areas being the rotors, that wasn’t going to work well since the AI is not going to work that out.  Stitching also allows some warping to fill edge gaps but this can mess with the alignment of the main part of the image.  I tried a couple of versions and they are compared here.

Is This The End For The S-76?

I was rather sad to read that Sikorsky is shuttering production of the S-76 helicopter.  The design first flew over 40 years ago but it has gone through a number of upgrades over the years.  It is a sleek looking machine and quite a bit larger than it might initially appear.  My first encounter with one was on the school fields of my high school when it was parked after bringing some people in for Cowes Week.  I got to chat with the pilot for a while.  No camera in those days, though.

When I worked in London, they had replaced the Queens Flight Wessex airframes with a pair of S-76s in a maroon color and they would often fly past our building as they landed at the palace.  I have had various other times when I have seen them since but not a huge number.  The most recent version is the S-76D which replaced the S-76C++ (catchy name, huh?).  It has not sold particularly well and the development program was rather protracted.  Without many customers, Sikorsky has called time for now.  Whether it gets resurrected in the future – perhaps with production at their facility in Poland – we shall see.

MD-500 Doing Something Odd

It might be an old design but the MD-500 still holds some fascination for me.  It is an agile machine and has a five bladed rotor which gives it a distinctive sound.  Paint it in a sinister paint scheme and I am sold.  This one was flying around at Boeing Field when I was down there recently and I got to shoot it a lot as it was flying a lot of pattern work.  (I missed a cracking shot of it as well but that is a different story.)

The first time I was shooting it, I could see some flashing light coming from inside the cockpit.  Looking at the shots afterwards, the guy in the right seat was using some device which would flash periodically.  I am not a specialist on helicopters but I do know the rotor tracking is a thing that has to be done so I wondered if this device was a strobe to freeze the blades to allow them to be tracked.  Anyone know whether it is.

The second time I was shooting it, the pattern was reversed so I got to see the other side of the airframe.  Some cabling was clearly taped to the outside of the fuselage and then going in through one of the doors.  No idea whether this was for the same purpose or something else.  All good suggestions (and maybe some silly ones) are welcome.

Aviation Brick Creations

Does this blog post count as an aviation post or a non-aviation post?  It is about Lego so let’s say it is non-aviation.  However, some of you may beg to differ.  At the Lego Awesome exhibition, there were a few different aviation subjects that were on display.  They had gone for scale in what they built and had selected subjects that had scale too.  How much more scale could you go for than an Antonov AN-225 Mriya.  They had a model that was half of the 225.  One side was the complete airframe and the thing was cut in half to show the interior of the jet.  It was a huge build and very neat.  Using a technique like a fueling team under the wing to provide support was very clever.

A Mil Mi-26 was the other large scale subject that I liked.  The 26 is a beast of a helicopter and quite unlike anything else.  They had done a great job of modeling it in UN colors dropping loads in flight.  Suspended from the ceiling it looked really cool.

A Cold And Damp Amazon Delivery Job

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.

Transition From KAWO to Amazon

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.

Croman S-61 On The Ramp

Amazon is finishing up a huge fulfillment center up in Arlington WA.  I understand it will be over 600k sq ft of space.  The structure is approaching completion and they needed to install the air handler units on the roof.  The most efficient way to do this is by helicopter so, after my many times with helicopter lifts in Chicago, I was looking forward to this happening.

They contracted with Croman Helicopters.  This is an operation out of Oregon, and they do a lot of firefighting work.  The lifting is. A smaller part of their business.  However, it is still a good line for them.  They brought two helicopters up for the lift.  One was an Astar (which might have been theirs or might have been chartered since it had a different name on it) and the other was one of their S-61s.  I’ve shot S-61s a couple of times but not often, so this was something I was looking forward to.  They came up ahead of the lift and parked on the main ramp at Arlington.  Conditions were pretty good and I was able to get some shots of the airframe.

Most of the pictures I have seen of their S-61s have them in a yellow scheme but this one was a dark grey.  It was a nice-looking finish but a bit tough if the lighting wasn’t great.  The S-61 has plenty of rivets which make for some cool textures in the right light.  It was also fitted with a good bubble window for monitoring the load along with some duplicate engine gauges on the outside in the line of sight of the lifting pilot.  I had fingers crossed for good conditions to get it in flight…

Canadian Dauphin Eludes Me

I don’t often see civilian Dauphins in service.  The Coast Guard operates the type but the US does not have a lot of them in private hands.  I saw a Canadian example showed up in Seattle and was quite a surprise.  It had a large winch mount on the fuselage which is unusual for a civilian operator.  It was quite a coincidence since Airbus Helicopters has just delivered the final Dauphin to a customer.  It has been superseded in their line by the H160.  I was hoping it would depart my way but it was cleared to the north on a downwind departure which they turned on to promptly after getting airborne.  I got shots but they were distant ones.

Almost Perfect MH-60 Timing

As we started our drive home from Oregon, we were to pass through Astoria.  There is an airfield at Astoria and it is home to a Coast Guard helicopter unit that flies the MH-60T Jayhawk.  I think this is one of the better-looking variants of the Black Hawk family both because of the paint job but also the configuration of external fuel tanks.  I hoped we might see one there, but we had a long drive home and I wasn’t going to subject Nancy to a long delay.

Imagine my frustration as we pulled off US101 towards the airport when an MH-60 flies over our heads towards the airport a mile away.  The light was great, and it looked good but I was driving and it was going to land long before we could get there.  Had I blown it?  Two minutes earlier and we would have been fine.  I pulled up and it was taxiing towards me.  I grabbed the camera and got a few shots as it headed to the Coast Guard ramp.  Check out the logo of Astoria in the shape of the Jayhawk.

However, it didn’t shut down.  I thought they might just be running after landing checks but Nancy asked why they hadn’t stopped everything so we waited for a while.  Sure enough, another crew walked across the ramp and climbed on board.  A few minutes later, they taxied back our way and then lifted.  The departure route has the bridge across the Columbia River in the background and, with great winter light, it looked great.  They turned down to the south and were gone.  I got back in the car and we were back on the road barely ten minutes after leaving 101.  I got my helicopter and Nancy didn’t have a long delay!