Photo Report – Helicopters!

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

With the winter clampdown at the field proceeding as planned despite the unusually warm weather – leading to some serious photo-deprivation – I thought I’d dig through my database and cobble together a short post to keep this blog going until something new happens :). And noticing that they’re strangely under-represented in my previous posts, I’ve decided to concentrate a bit on helicopters.

Despite Lučko being somewhat of a hub for general aviation in this part of Croatia, we don’t often see many civil helicopters. Apart from one local Robinson R-44 – and the five-strong Police squadron – we don’t have much of a choice here, the limiting factor being fuel availability. A vast majority of civil-registered helicopters in the country are turbine-powered, and the lack of Jet A at Lučko (except for military and police use) means we’re not all that interesting :). Nevertheless, I’ve given it my best shot and this is what I’ve come up with…

1. Sud SE.3130 Alouette III, 9A-HAT:

First on the list is a very rare 1961. Alouette III, by far and away the oldest helicopter in Croatia. Operated by Eudora Let Vodice based at Zemunik airbase (LDZD) near Zadar, this fascinating whirlybird is a rare visitor to Lučko, having last been here almost two years ago. Unfortunately, it was damaged about a week ago, when a drunk police officer crashed his car through the Zemunik perimeter fence (a public road crosses one of the taxiways) and caused significant damage among the aircraft on the apron – including totaling AK Zadar‘s C172.

Wearing a simple, all-over army green scheme, HAT looks like something that came out of M*A*S*H 🙂
Almost like being serviced out in the field in 'Nam...
To conserve the helicopter's limited service life remaining, non essential trips to various airfields are flown on the back of a low trailer :). Assembly/disassembly is relatively quick and painless, as you only need to detach the main rotor blades and you're done

2. Bell 206B JetRanger II, 9A-HBC:

Second up is – what are the odds – the second oldest helicopter in the country, manufactured in 1973 :). A nowadays rather rare JetRanger II, 9A-HBC is operated by the Croatian Police, mostly used for training, personnel and liaison flights. One of my favorite helicopters here, it’s always a joy to catch it flying. It’s a very photogenic thing :).

Sporting a catchy 70s aquamarine scheme, HBC is seen sliding away from the Police helipad. Out back is the Ecos apron, as well as one of the now-sold Air Tractors previously featured here
Plugged in and almost ready to fly after a prolonged period in the hangar
How not to get hit by a helicopter... While externally identical to the later JetRanger III, HBC is still somehow more interesting 🙂

3. Agusta-Bell AB.212, 9A-HBM:

The “heavy” of the non-military helicopter world here, 9A-HBM is and remains the largest helicopter flying in the country, as well as one of only two twins. Produced by Agusta in Italy, HBM is also operated by the Police and is an active participant in SAR, EMS and firefighting missions down at the coast. The only helicopter with some hauling capacity, it is also used by special forces during rappelling missions.

Looking imposing on approach :). A big Huey, but still a Huey, its lines are instantly recognizable
Off for some rappelling practice with the Alfas, the Police special unit team. The crew would lower two lines on either side of the helicopter, down which two men could descend at the same time (to maintain balance). In this photo, the Alfas are still not on board and would be picked up at the "drop zone" away from the main runway

4. Bell 206B-3 JetRanger III, 9A-HBZ and 9A-HDB:

Representing the Police some more are 9A-HBZ and HDB, both JetRanger IIIs. Filling pretty much the same roles as HBC, they’re the most often seen Police helicopters, bearing the brunt of the squadron’s work.

HBZ approaching its pad in lighting I have been hoping for for ages :). Almost looks like there's no crew on board
Despite being cheap to operate (relatively), JetRangers are pretty much confined to transport, training and some utility roles. Lacking a second engine, they're not really suited for very much else
HBZ departing as aerial support and surveillance during a much-publicized local police action in March 2008
HDB repositioning from Pleso during the afternoon. Before being finally supplied with their own bowser at Lučko, Police helicopters had to fly the 15 minutes to Pleso to refuel
High speed low altitude departure after the fixed-wing traffic had quieted down
HDB descending vertically down. I'm told that with a full load on a hot day this exercise isn't really fun in a JetRanger...

6. Robinson R-44, 9A-HDM and HWA:

And to finish it all off, some piston power! 🙂 Alphabetically leading is our resident R-44 Clipper II owned by MD Heliko, these last few days happily flying aerial photography missions all afternoon. HWA, a Raven II, is a visitor from Varaždin owned by WinAir, a machine you’ve already had the chance to see in my CIAV airshow report :).

Pretty buttons and dials :). A closeup of HDM's clean and basic panel. Not visible here is a moving map GPS (I think a Bendix unit) mounted on top of the panel
Revving up for a late-afternoon thermal imaging mission. Caught the rotor, caught the nav light, caught the crew... caught a cold in the downwash...
Face to face on liftoff. The most produced helicopter of all time, the R-44 is becoming an increasingly common sight in Croatia. At one time there were three of them on the register, though one - 9A-HAS, Clipper - had been sold some time ago
Caught on a rare visit to Lučko, parked next to HDM. Very nice paint scheme too 🙂
Swooping in down RWY 28 for approach to the main apron :). Unlike fixedwings, helicopters normally approach the apron directly, as to avoid interfering with other traffic


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