Rotorfest 2003

October 18-19, 2003

Brandywine Airport, West Chester, PA

Airshow report written on November 1, 2003.

For the last several years, Rotorfest has been the way for me to end my airshow season, and this year was no exception. However, on an unrelated note, I had thought about heading out to Nellis AFB, but I have no idea how that idea would play out, so I wouldn't be able to go. Plus I live in New Jersey and Nellis is all the way out in Nevada. Okay, enough bragging about an airshow that I can't go to. This year's Rotorfest was scaled back significantly because of the lack of ramp space. David Schultz Airshows has been putting on this show ever since its beginning but I don't know why he went on to not use the hillside area to display helicopters.

For one thing, the amount of military helicopters that showed up for the show was by far, the worst lineup I have ever seen at Rotorfest. Only two showed up - an HH-65B Dauphin from Atlantic City and a TH-57 SeaRanger from NAS Pensacola, Florida. However, two OH-58 Kiowas made a tight formation pass early in the morning - a flyby that I can't show you guys because I don't have it! Other helicopters that showed up were an Alloutte (the main reason I was looking forward to the show), a Bell 206 JetRanger and an Enstrom giving rides, an RAF-2000, Magnigyro, Gyrocopter, S-76, "Airwolf", AS350BA from WCAU-TV, Bell 407s from the Delaware and Pennsylvania State Police, BK117 from Pennstar, BK105 from SkyFlight Care, a couple Bell 47s, another Enstrom, and several R22s and R44s. This does not include the three helicopters that the American Helicopter Museum has on display and also the V-22 Osprey that the museum owns. Two airplanes were on static display - a Beechcraft Staggerwing and an SA-300.

As we got to the show, it was a high overcast, but as the day aged, the overcast broke through for a partly cloudy sky and giving a beautiful backdrop for photos, with the exception that the sun is in front of you for the entire day. Before the show, several aircraft made arrivals and departures from Brandywine Airport. In fact, it was a very windy day and the fixed-wing pilots had their hands full on landing, as they had to deal with a terrible crosswind! One of the notable arrivals was a floatplane and a notable departure was one of the local T-28 Trojans from the airport. As the airport was closed to traffic, the Alloutte departed, carrying members of the Freefall Adventures Parachute Team, along with the HH-65 Dauphin. The show started with the Freefall Adventures Parachute Team jumping from the Alloutte. For a civillian parachute team, they put on a very unique display and with the high winds, they put on a display that seemed to be a little risky, but fun for us (yes, I know, that did not make any sense, but its the only way I can describe it right now).

After the jumpers landed, the Alloutte came by in a high-speed pass to start its demonstration. As I said before, I was looking forward to seeing the Alloutte, and I was impressed by the short demonstration it put on. I had never seen an Alloutte before (at least not in recent memory) and tha'ts the reason why - and the fact that the design came from France. After the Alloutte landed, the United States Coast Guard arrived with the HH-65 Dauphin for their demonstration. The Coast Guard is a regular participant at Rotorfest, as well as most of David Schultz's shows, and they showed off the high-speed capabilities of the Dauphin in their arrival. The Coast Guard went on to perform their usual Search & Rescue demonstration. I've seen quite a few search and rescue demonstrations since 2000 and I still believe that nothing beats the demonstration I saw at Atlantic City this year. The demo at Rotorfest this year, in my opinion, was the best over-land Search & Rescue demonstration I've ever seen. I can't quite put my finger on why that is but I suppose it has to be that I was right in front of the Dauphin at "show center" point as he hovered over the runway. After recovering the crew member participating in the SAR demo, the Dauphin went on to demonstrate flying sideways and made a high speed pass. As he exited the show area, the Bell 47 departed to set up for its demonstration. The Dauphin came back around from the left once again and did some more hovering for several minutes before landing and taxiing to its spot on the static display.

As the Bell 47 was setting up for its demonstration, across the field was a BK117 operated by Pennstar and he was running up and ready to takeoff momentarily - and he did just that. The Bell 47 returned to perform its demonstration and I could easily tell you two things that were different in this demonstration than in years past. First of all, this was a different Bell 47 that performed the demonstration. I remember ever since I went to Rotorfest that it was a Bell 47 wearing a small US flag on each side of the helicopter that performed a demonstration and he performed an auto-rotation in the show. This Bell 47 was different (of course!) and he performed three passes before showing off any hovering and unusual flying characteristics that helicopters possess over airplanes. I believe the Bell 47 did the most 360ยบ turns out of any helicopter that performed during the show. He went on to perform a couple more passes before landing and giving the show to Joe Borin and his Gyrocopter.

Joe has been a regular performer at Rotorfest since I first attended and in years past, his demonstration never really impresses me, but this year he added a smoke system to his gyrocopter and that seemed to have helped! He performed his usual demonstration of several passes down the runway and like I said, that smoke system really enhances the performance. What I never realized is how high Joe gets in his demonstration and he even performed a little auto-rotation demonstration in the performance. After Joe landed, a local radio controlled modeler took a helicopter up in the air for a flight to demonstrate and promote the very expensive hobby - and I'm speaking from experience here! I was impressed with the helicopter in general because it was powered by a small turbine engine. It sounded like a real helicopter as it started up! The modeler performed several passes over a four-minute period of flight before coming in for a nice landing and ending the first airshow.

The Brandywine Airport was reopened to traffic and one of the first aircraft that caught my eye when it was reopened were a pair of Piper J3 Cubs in formation. The Bell 206 Jetranger and Enstrom F27 were still giving rides to those people who want to see Chester County from the air for about five minutes. The two Piper Cubs made a pass down the runway before landing and with the severe crosswind, both aircraft had a considerable amount of trouble keeping over the runway! One of the many private aircraft departures was a Cessna 172 that made a very short takeoff. During this time, there was also an autogyro flight, consisting of the RAF2000 and the Magnigyro. Both Piper Cubs came in to land, with the first one having trouble with the crosswind but able to land within the first 1,000 feet of the runway. The second Cub had a lot more trouble, as a gust of wind helped the pilot with the trickiest landing I've ever seen! It seemed as if he was about ready to plow the aircraft into the crowd line, but that was bound to not happen. The crosswind gave him trouble across the entire length of the runway and what surprised me was that he didn't abort the landing! Somehow the pilot managed to get the aircraft down on the ground within the last 500 feet of the runway and not ground loop the aircraft.

The MagniGyro came around to make a pass down the runway, followed by a very steep climb. As he left the immediate area, the SA-300 was on the takeoff roll and departed Brandywine Airport, followed closely by the Beechcraft Staggerwing. The Magnigyro came back around to perform a touch-and-go. As he made another pass down the flight line, it was a perfect chance to get three different helicopters in action in a frame - the Bell 206 giving rides, a Robinson R44, and the MagniGyro. The MagniGyro landed in time for an older Cessna 172 to depart and let the RAF2000 to begin its demonstration. It was at this time that we decided that since there was virtually no military presence at Rotorfest, other than the aforementioned Dauphin and the TH-57, that we would leave. It was at this time that a Bell 407 from the Pennsylvania State Police arrived and landed on the grass with NBC10's AS350, the Delaware State Police's Bell 407, and the SkyFlight Care BK107. As we were leaving, we took time to check out the new car preview area, consisting of vehicles from Ford, Mazda, Subaru, Lexus, Chrysler, and Honda.

We spent the last 20 minutes at Rotorfest watching the helicopters start up on the grassy field - an area that was off-limits from the show site but visible as you walk back to your vehicle. It was at this time that the Dauphin was performing another Search and Rescue Demonstration. At one given time, there were three helicopters with their engines running - the A-Star from NBC10, the Bell 407 from the Delaware State Police, and the BK107 from SkyFlight Care. The A-Star was the first to depart and set up for his demonstration. Like years past the crew from WCAU-TV in Philadelphia did a hovering demonstration and had the gyrocam operating, taking video of the crowd for playback on the 11:00 news that very night. The Bell 407 flown by the PA State Police started up as NBC10 was in the air. The BK107 was next to take off, throwing debris everywhere. He made one pass right over us before departing. The PA State Police were next as they took off and departed while the DE State Police took off and performed their demonstration. At this time, we were already on the road, heading back to New Jersey. I also learned that the Bell TH-57 JetRanger also performed a departure show, but had there been more military helicopters in attendance, we probably would have stuck around for that. All in all, the decision to watch from near the parking area was a good one, in terms of photographic conditions. The sun was being blocked by the American Helicopter Museum's building!

Needless to say, I enjoyed Rotorfest this year, but not for the rotary flight. It sounds strange, but in my opinion, seeing those two Piper Cubs in formation made the trip worthwhile. I'll forgive David Schultz and his team for no military choppers this year and I hope he decides to bring back the Freefall Adventures Parachute Team!


Overall Score: 7.25




What Made This Year's Rotorfest Unique



Attending Military Helicopters

Participating Organizations

Announcer: Representatives from the American Helicopter Museum

Gates Open: 10:00 AM