Air Time

I seem to be photographing a fair number of aircraft these days. I thought I’d share a few here from a recent excursion.

The helicopter above is a Hughes 369E, also known as a McDonnell Douglas MD 500E. It’s a small helicopter, 9.4m (30.8′) long with an 8.1m (26.4′) rotor diameter. This series of helicopters was originally built as a Light Observation Helicopter for the US Army.

This particular helicopter was apparently involved in a minor landing accident in Nunavut in 2001.

It has been working on the new Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line I talked about here. It appears to be doing light equipment moves.

Another Helo

I saw another helicopter buzzing around the power line work recently. It looks like a twin engine chopper but I couldn’t get the registration number to see what type it is.

Speaking of twin engine helicopters, I remember seeing a lot of Twin Hueys back when my dad worked for 403 Helicopter Squadron in CFB Gagetown, but this isn’t a Twin Huey.

A Water Bomber

This grainy photo shows C-GMFY tanker 257. This is a Bombardier CL-415 “Super Scooper”. It was delivered in November 2010 as the first of four CL-415 aircraft for Manitoba’s aerial fire fighting fleet. Previously, the province operated smaller CL-215 aircraft, and still owns three of those.

In a controversial move, the province elected to privatize the operation of these aircraft and engaged Babcock to maintain and operate the aircraft. The province still retains ownership of the aircraft.

Oh Yeah, There Was a Train

CP 8798 about to cross the Floodway
CP 8798 about to cross the Floodway

The reason why I happened to be photographing aircraft is because I was A) looking for trains, and B) photographing the Red River Floodway.

I was hanging around the CP railway bridge over the Floodway, hoping for a train to come along, and also wanting to fly my drone to get an aerial shot of the water in the Floodway. Now that the spring flood is here, the province has opened the gates at the south end of Winnipeg. I think they were opened on April 9.

With the red helicopter buzzing around, I didn’t want to fly my drone. I have to keep out of the way of aircraft and the helo was definitely in the vicinity of the bridge.

I got my chance when they landed to refuel. I put the drone up and zoomed out toward the Floodway to take my photos.

Water in the Winnipeg Floodway
Water in the Winnipeg Floodway

I’m still nervous about flying the drone over water, so I kept to flying over dry land. I shouldn’t be nervous, but I am…

While I was flying, I heard a train horn. Keeping an eye on the nearby helicopter, still refueling, I set up to record the train coming across the bridge.

CP 8798 was in the lead. You can see in the video below that the engineer held up a STAY SAFE sign as they approached the road crossing just south of the bridge. A PSA!

CP 8058 on the tail end
CP 8058 on the tail end

Here’s the video. There’s no sound so don’t think your speakers are broken!

I didn’t record the entire train, because a little snow squall showed up. Snow and electric motors don’t mix, so I quickly landed my drone and packed up.

I headed up to the CN Redditt and CP Keewatin subdivisions to see if I could find trains there. I had terrible luck on the CN, as there was a train just passing by as I approached it the first time, and when I returned from visiting the CP line, there was another CN train rolling by. In both cases I missed the start of the train. Sigh

At least there were some interesting cars on the first train. Long live the Rock Island!

Ex Rock Island car IC 769555
Ex Rock Island car IC 769555
Ex Alaska Agriculture car IC 10153
Ex Alaska Agriculture car IC 10153

Just One More Thing

Antonova AN-124-100 in Winnipeg
Antonov AN-124-100, Winnipeg, June 2011

A few more aircraft posts:

12 thoughts on “Air Time”

  1. I found some Airline DVDs on Greenfrog that were from around 2000 at various airports around the world (ATL, DFW, LAX, Germany, etc..) and its been fascinating to see the old airlines which are now gone (Northwest, Continental, etc) as well as the old aircraft that are mostly replaced now.

    I keep watching your drone videos and know at some point I’ll have to get one even though it seems they keep limiting where you can fly them down here.

    • Hi Gene, yes, things have changed a lot in the past 30 years or so in the airline industry. There’s been a lot of change both in the airline and in the manufacturing space. Look at Bombardier in Canada, who have basically sold off most of their aviation space (and all rail assets).

      Drones are a lot of fun to fly. I don’t know the regulations in the US but they seem similar to Canada. I’ll have to study them more in case I want to visit and fly in the US at some point.

    • Hi Patrice, the Bell 212 was developed from the UH-1N / CH-135 Twin Huey, so maybe this is a descendant of the Twin Huey!

    • Yes these new towers are very distinctive! I look at different transmission towers and imagine them as people standing in different positions. These I think of as someone making an “O” with their arms over their heads.

  2. Nice shots! Here in NYC we had a real treat today….5 US Navy Blue Angels flying in formation with 5 USAF Thunderbirds, as a tribute to frontline COVID19 workers. Cool stuff!

  3. That would have been great to see, Marv! The Blue Angels are used to keeping their “social distance” from each other – at least 2m 😉

  4. Thanks for another great post.

    I don’t know if you know this, but they also use the MD500 for stringing the power lines. When they first hang the insulators, there’s a pulley at the bottom of each one with a guide arm sticking out of one side at a bit of an angle. They attach the wire to the skid of the chopper and he flies sideways from tower to tower while threading the cable into each pulley. It’s pretty impressive to watch and those pulleys must be extremely low friction because he’ll pull it through for a mile or more at a shot. I caught him doing that when they were stringing the lines across Hwy 1 by Deacon’s Corner this winter. Pretty fun to watch. Some guys earn their paycheque a little more than others!

    Love the AN-124. I can’t say I’m familiar with the carrier that one belongs to. It looks sharp though. It’s a shame they don’t come into Winnipeg very often anymore. Used to often be at least monthly, sometimes more, in the 2005-2015 timeframe. I believe MacDon used to ship a fair bit of equipment overseas using the Antonovs. I used to haul from MacDon fairly regularly and they had a big picture on the office wall of the 124 being loaded with their products. If memory serves me correctly, I believe they were also chartered occasionally to bring in race horses from overseas, but I’m not 100% certain on that. I’ve only ever seen it once on approach from a distance, but even from a mile or two away it’s an impressive aircraft.

    Flying over water with a drone is definitely a little nerve-wracking! I got the Mavic Mini in November (my first drone) and I’ve probably been a little too confident over water. Just hope it doesn’t bite me yet! Lol. I enjoy all your shots, especially the aerial ones. That’s probably the pilot in me speaking though. I always prefer the view from above versus being ground bound.

    How do you find your drone in the wind? I find the Mini keeps the camera stable even in pretty significant or gusty winds, but the drone itself definitely starts complaining and yelling at me in what seems like only moderate winds. I can’t justify upgrading yet, but I’m curious how the bigger models might compare.

    • Hi Lee, thanks for your comment! I didn’t realize they used the MD500 to string the line. That takes a lot of skill! Back when I lived in New Brunswick the power company was building a line down to the Maine border and they used heavy lift helicopters for a lot of the work to minimize environmental damage from building roads to the sites. It was impressive to see videos of those big helicopters carrying and holding the tower parts into place while they were bolted down.

      I’m always looking for the opportunity to fly my drone for a unique angle. I’ve been considering the Mini because of the ability to fly it closer to airports than I can with the Air. The Air is pretty darn solid in high winds even though it complains a lot. I did have one time where I decided to land rather than continue to fly in the high winds I was in, but those winds were ridiculous. It really flies better in windy conditions than the app thinks it does.

      One thing to keep in mind is not to fly it downwind with a low battery, then expect it to come back! Fighting the wind takes a lot of juice and it’s wise to keep it nearby when it’s windy.

      I’d love to hear more about your experiences with the Mini!

      • Yeah, I was surprised they used the MD500 for it as well. I’d never really given it much thought and always just assumed they used one of the Bell 212/412 family to do it. You learn something new every day! Those heavy lift helos sure are impressive. I watched them a few times in the Landmark area when they were building bipole III and have nothing but respect for their skill!

        I have to say my experience with the Mini and wind echoes yours fairly closely. The app definitely seems to err on the conservative side and I’ve pushed it a few times in really windy conditions and the video is still rock solid. I’ve flown mine mostly at Pisew Falls, so I’ve also been a little more cautious with less than ideal conditions just because I don’t want to take the chance in the confined spaces there. It has seemed very capable in more open areas when I’ve tried it in them a few times. As far as overall performance, I’m very impressed. Battery life is stellar at a comfortable 25+ minutes in almost all conditions, except for when it’s colder than about -5 C. Below that it drops off rapidly, although I’ve found hovering it for two or three minutes before doing anything else helps warm up the battery a bit and actually gains more time than you lose hovering. For the price point it’s at, I think DJI mostly nailed it with the Mini. There’s a couple of significant omissions though which I think are more about avoiding cannibalizing sales of their better drones, rather than a genuine lack of hardware capability. No HDR is probably the biggest one and also no ability to program a route for it to fly automatically with the GPS. I believe all their other drones have these abilities, so it feels quite artificial to keep it from the Mini. I’d also like them to use a more efficient encoding format like h.265. It turns out massive files now and that can be a real pain when trying to work with them on my phone or iPad. I could be wrong, but I feel like those are artificial limitations that could easily be fixed with a software update. The other nuisance is that there isn’t a standalone controller for it and you have no choice but to use your phone with the controller. That may or may not bother others, but I find that really annoying since I don’t have a stand-alone camera, so I always have to choose between aerial or ground level shots. Other than that, I don’t really have any complaints and find it an excellent drone for the beginner or someone who wants something super light to pack with them to an event or on a hike. Like you mentioned, a big plus is that you also have more options for where you can fly it. I think that’s the case in many countries around the world, too, so that makes it an excellent drone for the traveller as well. They have added person and object tracking for some of the preset quick shot modes, so it’s nice to see it being improved even after purchasing it. It also gives me a glimmer of hope for HDR and h.265 in a future upgrade as well. It’s cheap and cheerful, but surprisingly powerful when all things are considered.

        Now I just need to head to some nice spots off the beaten path in the Sandilands to get some overhead train shots. I didn’t buy a Jeep for nothing! Lol

        • Thanks for the detailed report on the Mini. That’s about what I had expected and hoped for it. I would honestly not miss the HDR feature – it’s not great on the Air – and I have never programmed a route with my drone, so I wouldn’t miss that either.

          The lack of a controller is a big minus in my opinion. I think it would be great if DJI could offer that as an option. With the Air I can use my phone or the supplied controller. I always use the controller as it has greater range and can operate independently of a phone. The last thing you want is for your phone to decide to reboot while your drone is in flight!

          I can’t say that I have paid much attention to video encoding as I do all my editing on my PC. What do you use for editing on an iPad?

          Good luck on the overhead train shots and don’t get stuck!

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