Story & Photo
By Roger Cain
Carlos Airport hosted the Hiller Aviation Museum's
third annual "Vertical Challenge"
helicopter airshow and display on June 22nd.
as the largest gathering of helicopters on the
West Coast, it drew some 8,000 people from the San
Francisco Bay area, 3,000 more than last year. A
layer of early morning fog burned off quickly,
providing the crowd with clear skies and a breeze
to keep the heat down.
Helo Who's Who
than 50 rotorcraft flew in for the one-day event,
including display examples from manufacturers like
Eurocopter, Hughes, Piasecki, Robinson and
Schweizer. There was also a lineup of news and
traffic helicopters from various San Francisco TV
and radio stations.
beside a lineup of four Enstroms from a local
flight school were four bubble-canopy Bell 47s.
One, a 1947 Model, had the distinction of being
the oldest helicopter on the field.
number of public safety helos also attended,
including an Oakland P.D. McDonnell-Douglas 369E,
a California Highway Patrol Eurocopter and a Coast
Guard HH-65 Dolphin. Along with a fleet of
emergency vehicles that lined the taxiway, sirens
blaring, they all took part in a fly-by honoring
New York Fire Dept. victims of 9-11.
demonstration of what helicopters do best, the
Stanford University Life Flight helo had to leave
the show early on an emergency call. A California
Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection Huey from
Alma Helitack base in Santa Clara also left to
respond to an emergency call.
to Army, Navy and Marine Corps units from around
the state, there was an impressive turnout of
military helicopters on display. The heavy metal
included two Marine CH-46E Sea Knights all the way
from MCAS Camp Pendleton, a Navy CH-46D from HC-11
at NAS North Island in San Diego and an Army Guard
CH-47D from Stockton, Calif.
they were too large to land in their designated
parking spaces, the big military birds had to be
towed around the ramp. Bill and Adele Newman of
San Carlos did the honors with their 600-hp Super
the smaller military helos was a Bell UH-1N Huey
from the 76th Helicopter Flight Squadron at
Vandenberg AFB. Parked alongside it was an Air
National Guard Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk from the
129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield and
a pair of AH-1W Super Cobra gunships from Camp
special guest at the show was LCdr. August Kleish,
USCG (ret.), who was involved in what is believed
to have been the first helicopter rescue. On Sept.
18th, 1946, he was part of the crew of a Sikorsky
HOS-1 helicopter that rescued 18 survivors of a
Sabena Airlines DC-4 that crashed near Gander
Airport in Newfoundland.
Challenge featured not one but two "airshows"
— one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
The first opened with the national anthem and
Northern California skydiver Allen Silver
parachuting in with a huge American flag on the
underside of his chute.
up was helicopter aerobatics by members of the
Bayside R/C Club and a mock Search-and-Rescue
mission flown by the Coast Guard Dolphin. During
the break between shows, the audience was able to
visit a variety of display booths, wander through
the Hiller Aviation Museum or take a $25-ride in a
Robinson R22 helicopter.
start the afternoon show, announcer Larry Shapiro
introduced a kite demonstration by the Bay Area
Sundowners, followed by a water-drop demo by the
East Bay Regional Parks' Eurocopter. Jim
Cheatham's Showcopters performed their precision
flying demo with only two of their usual three
highlight of the day, especially for
history-minded helicopter fans, was a formation
hover by four different types of twin-rotor
helicopters. Representing the present-day,
active-duty military were two Boeing-built helos:
the Navy CH-46 and the Guard CH-47.
military helicopters from the 1950s and '60s was
Joe Pike's Piasecki HUP-1 from Victorville, Calif.
and the Ramona-based Classic Rotors Piasecki H-21B
Shawnee. The H-21 had been on display at the
Hiller Aviation Museum for a month prior to the
performing a four-ship stacked hover, the four
helos flew a circuit of the airfield.
was definitely a great historical event for the
museum; in fact, the entire show was a huge
success," said Hiller Aviation Museum
Marketing Director Willie Turner.
on the turnout, the enthusiastic and appreciative
crowd that attended Vertical Challenge shared
shared Turner's assessment of the show.