American Heroes Airshow – Los Angeles

The American Heroes Airshow is a fly-in at seven locations across the country of helicopters flown by what some would consider American heroes, as it happens to be.  The helicopters are those that are flown by local police, news, fire, military, and private contract work; the event organized to draw attention to the special and important role helicopters play in daily life  whether people notice it or not.  The American Heroes event in the Los Angeles area was hosted at the Hansen Dam recreational area.  The helicopters fly in early in the morning, sitting in the grass for the public to inspect throughout the day, then they leave in the early afternoon.  The departure is very popular by all those in attendance, everyone jockeying for the best spot to watch the takeoffs.

There was a full complement of local news helicopters, all sporting fancy, stabilized, high definition cameras hidden inside carbon fiber housings.  All the pilots seemed more than willing, eager even, to talk about their helicopters, daily work, and the standard crew carried and duties for news operations.  All news helicopters were the ever-popular A-Star, with few exceptions still using Jet Ranger variants.

Law Enforcement was out in full force as well with their helicopter representation.  There were multiple police departments and the county sheriff represented.  Everyone from Ontario Police Department to LAPD, California Highway Patrol, and Los Angeles County Sheriff attended.  Everyone seemed interested in these helicopters, maybe because they’re so popular in police chases along LA freeways, televised for everyone to see.

Also represented was local fire and emergency medical service.  LA County Fire brought their Fire Hawk, a former Black Hawk relegated to fire suppression and medevac duties.  Los Angeles City Fire Department brought their AgustaWestland AW139, which also performs a combination of fire suppression and medevac duties.  Amazing is how quiet the AW139 is compared to all the other helicopters present.  Around the middle of the show, LA City Fire sent three helicopters up to perform an aerial water drop demonstration.  Two of the helicopters carried water with dye in it so when the drops occurred, there was red, white, and blue water that rained down out past the crowd line.

The federal contingent was also well represented with a couple helicopters from the Black Hawk family representing various branches of the military.  A seemingly brand new UH-72 Lakota from the US Army was present; rare to see a military helicopter in such clean and new condition.  The US Forest Service flew in one of their observation helicopters, a former AH-1 Cobra – somewhat of a strange choice for fire spotting, but apparently the price was right.  The US Coast Guard brought their Los Angeles-based HH-65 Dolphin, sporting a retro paint job.

All throughout the day people could purchase tickets to ride in either a Robinson R44 or Bell Jet Ranger.  The flights mainly circled around the surrounding city for 10-15 minutes each.  While not everyone looked overly enthusiastic to board a helicopter – the perception being they are less safe than an airplane – everyone looked more than happy after having their flight.

Many thanks are due to everyone that worked to make this year’s show a complete success.  It seemed everyone in attendance had a good time at the fly-in, I know I did.  I’ll be looking forward to next year’s show; that is for sure.

By Matt Shinavar

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