When we landed in Nairobi, I was walking across the ramp and saw a very clean looking Mi-17 helicopter. It was marked up as belonging to the police service. The person I was chatting to told me that this helicopter and its hangar was very expensive but never actually got flown. Apparently, it might be a bit of a waste of time and money. Not sure whether that is true or not but that was what I was told. It certainly did look very shiny.
I’ve complained before that the JetRangerX is just not a good-looking helicopter. I have seen a few of them around here over the last couple of years and one example has shown up a few times in a glossy black livery with a dragonfly style marking on the fuselage. The cool paint does enhance the look of it a bit. I still don’t think it looks good, but this is as good effort to improve things.
One of my goals for going to the air show at Abbotsford this year was to see a Cormorant fly. I know this would sound like my normal interest in the bird species but this time it means the AW101 version that is flown for Search and Rescue by Canada. Sure, I have seen plenty of 101s over the years with the British and Italian examples, but I have never seen a Canadian one before. It was due to display during the show. When I got there, I was delighted to see it sitting on the operating ramp.
However, my optimism was unjustified. There was no announcement during the show about what had happened to the SAR demo, but it just didn’t happen. The day shows did get the demo, but the Friday evening show was a no go. It was a fun show, so I wasn’t too disappointed, but it was a little frustrating to still have never seen a Cormorant airborne. One day…
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.