Little and Large meet at Skelmersdale (By Crewmaster, Simon Johnson)
The middle of May saw the Huey Crew going to take a look at some other helicopters. No surprise there, but these were somewhat smaller than the Huey although I suppose that actually isn't that difficult knowing the size of 509.
However these helicopters are Flying Scale Models owned by members of the Skelmersdale Aero Modellers Club.
When Neil and I arrived at Phil's late on Sunday morning the weather was not looking favourable. Phil was on the phone regularly with those on the ground at Skelmersdale who kept him updated as to the progress of the weather fronts heading north.
Phil was given the news that the rain we were experiencing had finally just passed over them leaving relatively clear skies after it. As the rain eased we opened the door and pushed 509 out using the Mutt. Final checks were made as the preflight checks had been done under cover ensuring we could be in the air fairly swiftly once the rain had cleared. Phil hopped in and Neil walked the blades whilst I returned the ground wheels and the towing ‘A’ bar back under cover and closed the door.
Soon I jumped in the back and Phil was ready to press the starter button, the turbine had fired up and the main rotors were spinning and Neil got out to do his walk round checks. He climbed back in and gave Phil the thumbs up. Shortly after that Phil lifted 509 in to the air and set his course south to Skelmersdale.
Skirting around the weather we flew down the east of Southport looking at the gasometer which would soon no longer be part of the town’s skyline. Turning east Neil and Phil tracked the M58 and soon had our landing site in view. Phil made a recce circuit so we could check out the lie of the landing site. We could see an ex military Gazelle already on the ground. Knowing the force of the Huey's downdraught Neil suggested that perhaps we landed just to the north of the site on the largest of the three 'H's' marked on the ground. As we overflew the site we had seen that the ground looked very wet but couldn't be sure how firm it would be. A decision made to try it and Phil began his approach to the chosen spot.
As he slowly began to drop towards the 'H' it was becoming very apparent just how wet the ground was. Neil asked me to get ready to jump out and check the ground once the Huey had settled down. I slid open the cargo door and jumped into a few inches of water. I quickly turned and looked at the skids which were sinking alarmingly below the surface. I passed on the bad news and quickly jumped back in and closed the door at which point Neil took the controls and quickly
lifted 509 back into the air. He hover taxied over to where the Gazelle was parked keeping as far away from it as possible so as not to cause a problem with the downwash and settled it back on the ground.
I once again jumped out but this time the ground was firm and the skids were not sinking. The Huey was shut down and I set about securing the main rotors with the tiedown. All those who had been awaiting our arrival surged forward. We spent the next 15 minutes stood by talking to a group of very interested modellers.
Much to our surprise and appreciation, a tray of tea and coffee arrived along with bacon and sausage butties. We continued to chat whilst eating as there was no let up with the questions. Cameras kept appearing to take that all important photo to show they really had been that close to a real 'Huey'.
All the while we could hear in the background the models flying on the other site of their 'club' house so we went across to take a closer look. Much to our delight there was a B model Huey flying and afterwards it was arranged to get a photo taken of the scale model with the 1:1 version. One model that caught our attention was the 1/4 scale Lama with its miniature turbine engine. That was one mean little machine and when it was fired up boy did it sound good. The whole club stopped what it was doing to see it take to the air.
Unfortunately during the Lama display we could see the weather closing in so it was decided to make a swift exit. With our grateful thanks we said our goodbyes and Phil and Neil jumped in the front as I untied the rotors and moved them to the three o'clock position. Happy, Phil indicated for me to release the blades and I climbed in the back and closed the door. Again the blades slowly came to life as the starter motor wound everything up.
With cameras flashing and videos running Phil pulled pitch and 509 freed herself from the ground and headed for home. Wasting no time Phil took the quickest route back and soon we were on terrafirma with the ground wheels attached and the Mutt and ‘A’ bar connected to the Huey. Not long after we had pulled her inside and shut the door the rain came again.
It had been a most enjoyable afternoon out with the old girl, and the Skelmersdale crew had put a few pennies into the pot towards the North West Air Ambulance. I think we can say it was a result all round.