Whirlybirds was a 30 minute action / adventure series that aired in syndication. Chuck Martin and P. T. Moore were partners who co-owned a helicopter. Often, an episode would begin with them flying some rich person somewhere or with them meeting some "down on their luck" person who needed help. Then the story would evolve into a life-threatening situation. Occasionally, they'd help find some missing person who was lost way out in the middle of nowhere. Of course, Chuck and P.T. always saved the day somehow!
Kenneth Tobey .... Chuck Martin
Craig Hill .... P. T. Moore
Nancy Hale .... Helen Carter
Sandra Spence .... Janet Culver (1956-1957)
Whirlybirds was the first TV series that centered around a helicopter. A Russian named, "Igor Sikorsky" flew the first helicopter in 1909 but it wasn't very practical in design. The first really functional helicopter flew in 1942 and the first one in a combat zone flew in May of 1944. So anyway, helicopters weren't very commonly seen yet in 1957 when Whirlybirds aired. It made for a very exciting, almost "futuristic" feel for audiences and inspired many kids to go on to become helicopter pilots!
Whirlybirds was produced by Desilu Studios. They got the idea for the series from an episode of the "I Love Lucy Show" episode titled, "Bon Voyage". Lucy arrived too late to get on a cruise ship with Ricky and the Mertzes. She managed to get on the ship by being lowered onto the deck by a helicopter. As an interesting side note, Lucille Ball was somewhat anxious about being dangled above the set on a wire as she had once fell 30 feet to the ground when a similar harness had broke while filming a movie!
The helicopters used on Whirlybirds were the Bell Model 47G (at first) and the Bell Model 47J Ranger (when a second copter was added later in the series). The tail number of the 47G was "N975B" and the number of the 47J was "N2838B". When the pilots communicated by radio, their call signs were "75 Bravo" and "38 Bravo" in reference to the tail numbers.
Whirlybirds was the best "free" advertising for Bell as each episode showed the remarkable capabilities of this "new" type of aircraft. Seeing the potential for daring rescues where conventional aircraft could not go and the myriad of other unique uses for helicopters sure didn't hurt sales for Bell or for "National Helicoter, Inc." (the company that supplied the show with the copters)!
The Bell helicopters were based out of the fictional "Longwood Field", located in southern California.
Of course, Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill didn't actually fly the helicopters on the show. That job was done by expert pilots Ed Fuderich, Bob Gilbreath, and Harry Hauss of National Helicopter. Inc.
Kenneth Tobey has one of the longest list of acting credits you'll ever see. Most of them besides his role on Whirlybirds were guest-starring roles but he did play the boss of Secret Agents "Kelly Robinson (played by Robert Culp)" and "Alexander Scott (played by Bill Cosby)" on the series, "I Spy" for quite a few episodes.
After Whirlybirds ended, CBS returned 39 out of the 111 episodes to syndication and retitled the series, "Copter Patrol".
Episodes List With Original Air Dates
Whirlybirds - The First Season
1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000+
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