October 19-20, 2002
Airshow report written on October 20, 2002.
Rotorfest is truly a one-of-a-kind event. Every year since 1996, the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, PA, in conjunction with David Schultz Airshows, puts on a very nice airshow showcasing civillian and military rotorcraft. This is the only all-helicopter airshow in the country east of the Mississippi, as Vertical Challenge takes place in California (I think Rotorfest is bigger, though). I did not put up a Rotorfest preview this year because I didn't have the energy to put one up and keep it up-to-date.
As a seasoned Rotorfest attendee, I pretty much knew what to expect this year. There would be a number of military helicopters and a nice assortment of Bell 47s, as the show is held the same weekend as the Bell 47 Fly-In. A short list of helicopters that came included five R-44s, two R-22s, at least four different Bell 47 models, two AS350BA newschoppers (KYW-3 and NBC-10/WCAU-Philadelphia), DE State Police Bell 407, two BK-117s, a BK-107, S-76, several sport autogyros, AH-64A Apache, CH-47D Chinook, CH-113 Labrador, CH-124 SeaKing, CH-146 Grifon, two SH-60B Seahawks, UH-60A Blackhawk, UH-60L Blackhawk, OH-58 Kiowa, AH-1W Cobra, and an HH-65A Dauphin.
The show site has also changed drastically. The large grassy area in show left was roped off as construction was being done for what looks to be a new hangar. Instead, the show site was moved to the right and the military helicopters were perched up on a hill to the right of the entrance area. That area looked to be almost 1½ times the size of the area on show left and makes for an incredible view while looking down at aircraft taking off on the runway. Unfortunately, for the afternoon show, the entire hill area was roped off for safety.
Two new additions were put in place for Rotorfest this year - Otto the Helicopter and the US Army Special Operations Command Parachute Team, the Black Daggers. More on them later on but they made for a more exciting Rotorfest. Otto was giving helicopter rides as well as a Bell 206 JetRanger between each show while the airport was open to traffic. Pre-airshow arrivals included Chopper 10, BK-107 from SkyFlight Care (which had to be scrambled on an assignment 15 minutes after its arrival), an S-76 from Hahnemman Hospital, and a Bell 206. The UH-60L Blackhawk started up to take the jumpers airborne and afterwards, the Apache started up for its demonstration. The first show started with opening ceremonies followed by a demonstration by the Bell 47. This is the same Bell 47 that flew in past shows and is a welcome sight to everyone. It's also my favorite Bell 47 because he flies the colors on the fuselage. The demonstration is just a pass or two plus a demonstration of auto-rotation. It's not much but it's nice to see one fly.
Otto the Helicopter was up next. In all honesty, this is an act that is specifically drawn to young kids. When he was at Willow Grove in 2000, I was not pleased with the performance but this time around, I liked it. Maybe because I couldn't hear the narration but the deletion of that made it seems more enjoyable. Otto is a Hughes 269 with a clown face on the front. When he's taking people up for rides, the clown face isn't there. As Otto was flying, the Apache departed to set up for his later demonstration, which was next. The Apache demo is worth coming to Rotorfest. This year's demonstration seemed a little scaled back but just seeing the Apache flying less than 300 feet in front of you is a sight to behold. Afterwards, the Black Daggers took the show area. They jumped from a UH-60L Blackhawk at an altitude of 5,000 feet. At that altitude, it's usually jump out and immediately open your 'chute. These guys actually put on a freefall show before opening their 'chutes, which made their performance all that more exciting. Their landings in which they have their gear hanging from underneath make their jumps more unique than the Golden Knights or Red Devils.
Pennstar's BK-117 and the AH-1W Cobra made one pass as the BK-117 made a landing and the Cobra made one pass and landed. Chopper Six (WPVI) made an arrival and left about an hour later before the newschopper march. That marked the end of the first show. Helicopter rides resumed and a small autogyro flight commenced. I did not get this on video because I was in the museum at the time and eating some lunch. The second show was opened with the Coatesville High School ROTC and a playing of the national anthem. Around show center, a departure flight of a Robinson R-44 commenced. I was right there for his departure. He departed and gave the show off to the larger choppers.
The HH-65A Dauphin from CGAS Atlantic City was inbound for a high-speed pass and a search and rescue demonstration. The Atlantic City guys love showing it off at airshows and it's always great to see a simulated demonstration, rather than actually seeing one live. The Dauphin did some hovering before flying off and giving the show site to the Canadians' main SAR platform, the CH-113 Labrador. They demonstrated a much more complex search and rescue demonstration that was very unique in its own way. This seemed like a three-man operation and it involved a harness method instead of a basket like our Coast Guard used with the Dauphin. The Labrador made one final pass and this time, the harness previously used now flew the American flag. That drew a lot of cheers from the crowd - seeing our flag flying from a Canadian military helicopter.
The BK-107 came back for another pass before leaving temporarily. The Delaware State Police demonstrated their Bell 407 JetRanger and its maneuverability. He did a flyby with his sirens wailing - something everyone loves! The CH-47D Chinook was getting ready next and as he was taking to the sky, he did the wildest takeoff maneuvers ever. When I upload the video, you'll see. He did a sharp right turn, almost throwing the helicopter inverted before recovering. The Chinook is a big helicopter and seeing him fly is just amazing. The Dauphin, Labrador, Chinook, and UH-60L Blackhawk all came back around for two passes each - in that order. The last pass gave the opportunity to get four different helicopters in one picture, which provided for a unique Kodak moment. The Blackhawk came back to give a salute by standing on the runway by its tailwheel, thus ending the show. Those who stayed afterwards saw some departures of Bell 47s and R-44s while helicopter rides were still being given. This is a great way to end the airshow season.
I would like to give a special thanks to David Schultz once
again for his hospitality for the show.
Overall Score: 9.5
What Was Done at Rotorfest That Made It Unique
A list of participating aircraft can be
found at David Schultz Airshows' website under "Past
Events", Rotorfest 2002.