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.
During our stay in Longparish, we could hear the sound of helicopters on a regular basis. We weren’t far from both RAF Odiham and Middle Wallop so getting military movements was to be expected. Getting a camera to hand when they came over was another thing. However, while on one walk, we did see a Royal Navy Merlin operating across the fields and behind some trees. Getting a clear look at it was very difficult and, as we got closer to where it was on our walk, it naturally moved off somewhere else. I never got a good shot. Here is the best I could manage as they taunted me by remaining just out of reach.
We had a few helicopters show up in the region during the firefighting season. One was at Arlington and that was a Boeing Chinook owned by Billings Flying Service. Based in Billings MT, they provide a variety of aviation services including this helicopter for firefighting duties. It was parked on the ramp at Arlington and had a logo on the airframe to show its home base as well as a text logo on the fuselage near one of the navigation lights that referenced the Police song, Roxanne.
I would love to have seen it fly but the weekend when I was up there, it was just parked and work really gets in the way of having fun with aviation on weekdays. The paint scheme was really cool and it was fitted with an internal water system along with a snorkel for picking up water when needed. I would love to see this in action but that hasn’t happened yet and there is something very unfortunate about getting to see firefighting operations underway since it is a sign that bad things are happening!
Our long weekend in Vancouver did include some slightly gloomy weather. When the conditions were not enticing for wandering around the city, I hopped in the car to head down to the heliport on the waterfront. Despite having been to Vancouver many times, I had never actually got down to the heliport itself. It was really easy to get to from our hotel and the car was welcome in the crummy conditions.
Weekend traffic levels are lower than during the week but there is traffic to Nanaimo and Victoria so that helps a little. I was happy to sit around for a while and get some shots. I’m sure a busy weekday would be better and having some slightly nicer weather wouldn’t hurt. I did figure that, since I had got some shots, a little video might be worth a shot. I was able to get some arrival and departure video so edited that together in the piece below. Helijet’s S-76s are nice looking airframes. I would love to take a trip with them some time – I just assume the luggage allowances are not great!
With the firefighting helicopters gathering at Snohomish to cover the local fire activity, I was able to chat to the crews a little while they waited to see what was to come. Northwest Helicopters had brought in a Black Hawk to support the fire if needed. It was a 1984 build airframe and had been painted in a blue scheme. The guys were complaining about the paint, though. It was a matte finish and the soot from the exhausts was discoloring the surface and was, apparently, impossible to clean up. The rest of the airframe looked fine for something that is nearly 40 years old.
They had a Bambi bucket with them for the firefighting side of things and were quite happy for me to check out the interior of the cockpit. Having shot their arrival, it was a shame that the visibility was so bad that they could not do what they had come to do and were stuck on the ground while I was there. A nice pair of guys to chat with, though, and I appreciate the time and access that they gave.
The British Army bought a bunch of Apaches which were locally assembled by Westland and were fitted with Rolls Royce Turbomeca engines to bolster the local content. Since that acquisition, the Apache has gone through a bunch of upgrades and the current AH-64E Apache Guardian is the latest and greatest. The British Army decided to acquire these and, this time, there is none of the local content to worry about. Their airframes have been rotated back to Boeing and AH-64E airframes get delivered. Some might have originally been British but others are not.
Middle Wallop is not the busy airfield it once was but there is still some Army flying underway and that includes operation of these new Apaches. While I was visiting, there were some airframes flying around the local countryside and also doing some pattern work. They pattern is a bit distant from the museum area but I was still able to catch some shots of them. Hopefully I will see them in more detail at some point but this was my first encounter with the updated fleet.
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.
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.
I made a kit of an RAF Puma when I was a kid and have had a soft spot for the type ever since. The Super Puma is a capable airframe that has had a few problems over the years but is still very impressive. If I can see one anytime, I will try to do so. The good news is that one has shown up at Arlington. It was parked outside a hangar without rotors when I saw it and got some shots. It has since moved indoors and I assume it is being fitted out for operations. If so, I can’t wait to see it in action.
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.