Earlier this year, a friend offered the donation of a large photo collection to the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum. My son Jack and I decided to make it into a vacation trip, and fellow The Aero Experience scribe Fred Harl decided to join us on the adventure. To make the most of the time we had, a flight out to Sacramento and a drive home with plenty of visits worked out the best.
We spent Father's Day at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which we will feature in a later post, and as we headed east towards San Bernardino where we would stay the night, we saw smoke off in the distance which turned out to be from fires in the foothills north of Riverside and San Bernardino. As we came into Riverside, we looked off to our left and saw three helicopters with Bambi buckets coming our way. Crossing the highway in front of us, they started to lose height as they circled into a small city park with a lake. We quickly got off the highway and made our way over to the park to watch the San Bernardino Sherriff's Dept. AS350B3 go into a hover and slowly approach the water, only to power up and fly away along with the two Hueys. Although we were disappointed that it did not pick up water, we were happy to have been in the right place at the right time to see one in action.
Our final visit to a Cal Fire base was in San Bernardino where we found a Neptune Aviation Services P-2 that we happened to have seen in Alamogordo two years earlier. The staff there was friendly as well and took us out onto the ramp. There we saw a CH-64B Skycrane operated by Helicopter Transport Services that we had seen on the evening news the day before snorkeling in a lake and dropping a load on a fire in the nearby foothills. The S-2Ts and OV-10 normally based there were helping fight fires further south and had stayed the night at Fox Field.
No sooner had we started taking photos of the P-2 when a radio call went out over the loudspeaker for the P-2 to respond to a fire. We watched as the crew fired up the Wright 3350s and taxied off. With the U.S. Forest Service having already stated they would not be renewing contracts for P-2 next season, this was likely the last time we would see a P-2 in action.