Tag Archives: sikorsky

Helijet Sunday Ops

The weather in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend was not great for aviation photography with a fair bit of rain and definitely only one day when the sun showed up.  That day was not going to be one on which I would suggest to Nancy I go photographing helicopters.  That might not have been the smartest suggestion.  However, when the morning was rainy and cloudy and we were planning on a relaxing day, things could be different.

I hopped in the car and drove around to the heliport which is used by Helijet for their shuttle service to Vancouver.  The Sunday schedule is not the busiest so I had to plan accordingly so I got there in time for an arrival and they were scheduled to head back out again not long afterwards.  I could fit all of this in before heading back for a spot of lunch.

The S-76 is a pretty elegant looking helicopter.  The design has been around for a long time and has gone through a number of iterations but the basic airframe shape is good in my opinion.  It is a lot larger than you might imagine with plenty of seating capacity which makes it good for this shuttle service.  One of the airframes was parked at the heliport when I got there so I got some shots of that.  Then it was a question of waiting for the inbound flight to arrive.

The problem with the heliport is the fencing.  It has quite a tight mesh and it is possible to shoot through it but it requires some care in aligning the end of the lens with the holes.  Sometimes I do better with this than other times.  When the helicopter is coming in, I have to try hard to get it right.  Stepping back away from the fence does provide a little elevation but not much so shooting through the fence is going to be required.

The sky was grey and dreary so approach shots were not going to be too good but I was going to try them anyway.  Once it was close to touchdown, it was a sprint to the fence.  They taxi off the pad to the space in front of the terminal (generous description, I know) and then shut down.  It was too long before they were firing up again.  Given that the wind was not too strong, they were able to lift and head straight out.  As they got on to the pad, it was noticeable just how far aft the rotor was pitched.  Once airborne, this resulting in a nose high altitude and then they were off.

My First Cyclone (In Horrid Conditions)

We made a trip to Victoria quite a few years ago when I happened to get a shot of a Canadian Forces Sea King as it flew by.  That was the only one I ever shot.  They have now been retired and replaced by the outstanding airframe (tongue firmly in cheek) that is the CH-148 Cyclone.  Based on the Sikorsky S-92, the Cyclone development program has been a bloody disaster.  Even as I write this, they are currently addressing cracks in the tail boom that have just shown up.

Just after we got off the ferry at Swartz Bay, we drove to the shoreline in Sidney.  I had only just parked the car and was heading to get something out of the trunk when I heard the sound of rotors.  It was raining heavily and the wind was blowing but I grabbed the camera from the trunk, set it up for rotors and looked up just as a Cyclone flew by a little way off and then turned downwind.  I think they have a squadron based in Victoria International Airport so I suspect it came from there.

The conditions for shooting were awful and the light was terrible so the shots are not too great.  However, sometimes you go with what is available.  I was hoping that they would be doing some pattern work and that we would get another pass but this was the one and only time that we saw them.  Now I have to hope that this isn’t a repeat of my Sea King experience and I never get another shot (although I’m not sure that it is a great helicopter to photograph anyway!).

Passing Black Hawk

I was hoping for an approach and landing when I saw this Black Hawk heading downwind but, sadly, it was just passing by, presumably on its way back to JBLM.  It was a bit distant but I still decided to get some shots.  The crewman was looking out of the side of the cabin as they flew by and a few of the shots seem to have them looking directly at me.  The helmet and mask combination that they use is very intimidating.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong, honestly.

More Black Hawk Shots

I posted some shots of the Black Hawks that were delivering personnel to Paine Field for their onward flight in a USAF C-32.  There were only a few shots in that post, but I took a lot of photos of the Black Hawks as they made there approach.  Since there is a limit to what I get to shoot these days, I felt a post could certainly be made of some of the other shots from that day.  Nice evening light really helps a Black Hawk look good.

Three Black Hawks Bring In Some Passengers

The evening departure of the C-32 was covered in this previous post.  I hinted then about the arrival of some of the passengers.  I’m not sure where they had been visiting but they returned Ina. Three ship of Black Hawks.  Some of those who had been around earlier in the day had seen the departure and apparently it followed the same process.

The three ship of Black Hawks flew downwind on the west side of the field having approached from the south.  They then turned to final in a stream, descending to a lower level and flying the length of the runway prior to setting down near the fire station and close to the awaiting C-32.  Since it was late in the day, the light on them was really nice once they were over the field (conversely, they were seriously backlit while downwind).

After dropping off their passengers, they pulled up and departed back to the south, presumably heading towards JBLM.  I haven’t seen any UH-60s for a while so this was a nice change from the norm.  It was also fun looking at the crew on board with the helmet and face masks as they looked back at us.  Hopefully they didn’t mind being photographed too much!

Old Children’s Hospital S-76

Quite a few years back, I was at Van Nuys when the Children’s Hospital Sikorsky S-76 flew over on final approach.  I found out a little while later that this helicopter had been donated by Helinet.  I found this while talking to Alan Purwin who ran the company prior to his death.  It was a nice looking helicopter which isn’t hard since the S-76, while an old design, is a sleek looking machine.

I made a detour recently to Anacortes airport, purely because I had never been there before.  Nothing much was going on but, stored at one end of the airfield was this S-76.  It looked exactly the same.  The registration had been changed but zooming in on the airframe, I could just make out the outline of the old numbers.  Sure enough, it is the same airframe.  Clearly, it isn’t looking like it is going anywhere soon but it did provide years of good service.

Coast Guard MH-60

While at Boeing Field on a sunny day, I was pleased to see a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk flying along the runway.  MH-65s are the local Coast Guard helicopters so a Jayhawk is a nice change.  Having seen the MH-65s doing a fly through before, I was hoping that we would get the same but they actually pulled up and turned in the the FBO.  However, once on the ramp, the kept rotors running so I knew they would be out again soon.

When they did come out, they actually back taxied to the far end of the field.  I would have been a lot happier with them making an intersection departure closer to me but that wasn’t to be for some reason.  Consequently, they had gained a fair bit of altitude by the time they came level with me.  A belly shot was not what I was after but never mind.  The underside view gives a good view on the three external tanks that the Jayhawk can carry.  That gives some serious range when heading far offshore to rescue someone in need.

S-55s Waiting to Go

Just up the road from Brewster Airport is another collection of vintage helicopters.  Monse has some even older airframes.  I was a little disappointed at first because I thought that they were going to be R-5s but, when I got there, I came across a bunch of immaculate S-55s.  There may have been an R-5 in there too because I could see the tail of something different.  Most of what I could see was S-55s, though.

Each of them looked in fantastic condition.  They all had individual paint schemes that looked flawless so there was little to be disappointed about.  I could shoot what I could see from the road outside the entrance to the driveway.  Again the signage did not encourage visitors so I decided against walking up the driveway to see whether they would let me shoot the collection up close.  It certainly would be good to visit in more detail though.

Welcomed By a Flying H-34

As I mentioned in a previous post, my visit to Brewster to see the S-58/UH-34s was not one during which I was expecting to see anything flying.  As I drove up, you can imagine my surprise to see a UH-34 in pristine Marine Corps markings hovering in front of me.  It transitioned away as I pulled in to the airport so I was pretty annoyed thinking I was just too late to see it.  However, I was wrong.  They were doing pattern work and, while I don’t know how long that they had been flying already, they were not finished.

I parked the car and grabbed the camera as they came downwind and turned in to approach from a high position.  The next couple of approaches seemed to be autorotation training.  Each run around the pattern gave me a bit more time to get to a better position from which to get some shots.  Initially, there was a building in the way but I was able to move to a spot with a clear view of the action without going anywhere I shouldn’t have been.

As I had managed to grab some shots, I figured I would switch to some video while I was at it.  I didn’t get much video but enough to put together one composite circuit of the flying.  That video is on YouTube as seen below.  They then landed and taxied back to their ramp where, after a suitable cooling off period, they shut down.  I was tempted to hang around to see if they flew again but I had a long day planned ahead of me and wanted to make sure I got everything in so I decided, after a short while, to continue on my way.

S-58s for Cherry Drying

My road trip on a day off was not just a chance to have a day doing something different from the normal working from home during lockdown but was also a chance to check out something I had been meaning to do since moving to the Pacific Northwest.  I was aware of helicopter operators that used the helicopters to dry fruit – cherries is what I had heard – and were keeping a bunch of vintage airframes in service to meet this need.  What I had read about was S-58/UH-34s being used in Brewster.

This was my first stop on my road trip.  It took a little over three hours to get there but there was very little traffic and the drive across the Cascades was a nice way to start the day.  I was not anticipating much activity as I had assumed the season was over and so anything there would be parked up.  I was not entirely right about that but more of that to come in another post.

The airport has a ton of airframes on site.  Many of them look to be maintained in airworthy condition.  A variety of colors suggest the sourcing of airframes from wherever it was practical to get them.  Unlike my time working with Midwest Helicopters, none of these airframes appeared to be turbine powered.  They still seemed to have the piston powerplants.  The airworthy looking helicopters were parked in an orderly fashion around the site.  There were also some spare airframes.  I don’t know whether these have been robbed for parts, are awaiting restoration or have had issues but they are stored out in the open.  There also appeared to be some other components stored outside.  I suspect this means they need work and maybe the serviceable parts are under cover.

I would certainly like to learn more about the operation.  The signage was not encouraging visitors but I did get a wave from someone driving out of the place.  I decided not to just wander up based on the notices around but it would be good to get back out there some time and learn more about their operations, history and the sources of the helicopters.  It would be an interesting article to put together.