I was heading home from Arlington and passing Snohomish when it occurred to me that there might be an opportunity to shoot the Skydive Snohomish jump ship. They operate a Blackhawk conversion of the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan. The conversion adds a more powerful engine which is useful for a jump ship that is focused on getting loads to altitude fast and then returning to do it all again. I turned off to the airport and saw that operations where on a southerly flow which means towards the road.
As I drove around, the plane took off directly over me, but I had no time to stop and get a shop. I parked up and watched it climbing above me and then disgorging its load of what my friend Bob calls meat bombs. The descent was pretty rapid, and the plane was landing as the jumpers were making their approaches. It pulled off the runway and then held on a taxiway for a while. It appeared that they waited until the next lift was ready to board at which point, they pulled up to the skydive facility and got everyone on board.
It was a short taxi to the hold point and then they were lined up and powering towards me. It is a short runway at Harvey Field, but they were rapidly airborne and climbing above me and on their way to the drop point. Once they were gone, I packed up my stuff and headed home.
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.
I posted some shots of the K-Max that came to Snohomish to support the firefighting operations on the Bolt Creek fire. They flew in from another location and needed some material to support their planned stay. They made a call to their base and arranged for some parts to come up on a support aircraft. This turned out to be a Daher Kodiak 100. I was actually getting ready to leave when the Kodiak showed up making a tight pattern to land. I was out of position so just watched it but, they were a bit high and fast on the approach so made a go-around. This gave me time to get somewhere better for the second approach.
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 have never shot an airborne K-Max. I have seen them flying – indeed one flew over the house during the pandemic and I looked out of the window as it came low over me but no camera was handy. It is a bit of a problem for me that I have not yet shot one flying. I did manage to get close to one recently, though. The Bolt Creek Fire broke out up near Index and a number of fire fighting helicopters were drafted in. They were based at Harvey Field in Snohomish so just up the road from me. I went up to see what was afoot. Sadly from a photographic point of view (and from many others too), the fires had resulted in so much smoke in the area, the visibility was too poor for anything to fly.
Instead, I was able to chat to the crews and walk around the helicopter as it sat on the field waiting to see what would happen next. The orange paint scheme is pretty conspicuous as if the unusual configuration Kaman knows best was not conspicuous on its own. The airframe is minimal – space for a pilot, engine, fuel and transmission and not much more. From every angle, it is a strange looking beast. However, it is so interesting. A few weeks later it had moved to Arlington from which it eventually ferried home. Of course, that happened when I wasn’t there so I continue to wait for the chance to shoot one airborne.