Whirlybirds

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Whirlybirds
Series titles over an image of a Bell 47 helicopter
Also known as''The Whirlybirds
Copter Patrol''
GenreAdventure
Created byArt Napoleon
Jo Napoleon
StarringKenneth Tobey
Craig Hill
Sandra Spence
Nancy Hale
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes111
Production
Executive producer(s)Mort Briskin
N. Gayle Gitterman
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Desilu Productions
DistributorCBS Films
Release
Original networkSyndication
Picture formatBlack and white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseFebruary 4, 1957 (1957-02-04) –
January 18, 1960 (1960-01-18)[1]

Whirlybirds (sometimes called The Whirlybirds or Copter Patrol) is a syndicated American drama/adventure television series, which aired for 111 episodes — broadcast from February 4, 1957, through January 18, 1960.[1] It was produced by Desilu Studios.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The program features the exploits of Chuck Martin (Kenneth Tobey) and Pete "P. T." Moore (Craig Hill), owners of a fictitious helicopter chartering company, Whirlybirds, Inc., in the American West. Martin and Moore sell their services to various clients at the fictional airport Longwood Field.

The Whirlybirds series was, like I Love Lucy, a product of Desilu Studios. One particular episode of I Love Lucy, Number 140, became pivotal to the Bell 47's public image as the definitive light helicopter of the 1950s. In No. 140, titled "Bon Voyage" and first aired on CBS on January 16, 1956, Lucy Ricardo misses the sailing of her trans-Atlantic ocean liner and commandeers a friendly pilot of a Bell 47G to fly her to the ship; Jack Albertson guest stars in this episode. Down she goes on the hoist, in a studio sequence carefully staged using a 47G cabin mockup. Desilu Studios, intrigued by the Bell 47 and its manufacturer, began discussions with Bell Aircraft about how the entertainment potential of the Bell 47 might be further developed for a television audience. The result of this collaboration became The Whirlybirds.

Tobey and Hill did not fly the helicopters on the show. That task was handled by expert helicopter pilots Ed Fuderich, Bob Gilbreath, and Harry Hauss of National Helicopter Service, Inc.

After production of the series ended, Kenneth Tobey reprised his role as Chuck Martin in episode #223 of the long-running television series, Lassie. Titled "The Rescue", the Lassie episode was broadcast on October 2, 1960. Chuck Martin uses a Bell 47G to rescue a trapped Timmy Martin (Jon Provost).

Production notes[edit]

The series was originally supposed to air on CBS, but was instead put into syndication by CBS Films. Series filming started in 1956.

The first four episodes were titled The Whirlybirds and the rest simply Whirlybirds. Many episodes were directed by Harve Foster and Robert Altman. The creators were Art Napoleon and Jo Napoleon. Assistant Directors Bruce Bilson and Sid Sidman handle 2nd unit filming.

The series was filmed on location in California. The production first used the Santa Susanna Airport in Simi Valley. The airport, no longer in existence, was near the Iverson Movie Ranch, a dude ranch used to film westerns. Later episodes were filmed at the San Fernando Airport, which is also now closed. Much of the open area seen around both airports in the series has since been developed.

Helicopters used[edit]

The two helicopter types used were Bell models, a 47G and a 47J Ranger; the tail numbers were N975B and N2838B (and N1538B as back-up), respectively. In reality, many helicopters played the role of N975B. Other Bell 47Gs owned by National Helicopter Service were used in the filming with "N975B" decals covering their actual registrations.

Guest stars[edit]

Episodes status[edit]

Some copies of the series are sold on the internet, but no officially authorized DVD sets are available. The U.S. National Archives possesses a complete set of original 16 mm prints. The original 35mm film prints of the series are no longer available; unfortunately, extant video copies are inferior with poor contrast/low-resolution images, some emulsion scratches, and with 16mm projector film-gate dirt visible in the frame corners. Considering the many generations of dubs made of this series, the soundtracks of most episodes remain in relative high fidelity.

Syndication[edit]

After production of Whirlybirds ended, CBS returned 39 of the 111 episodes to syndication and retitled the series, Copter Patrol.

International airings[edit]

In the United Kingdom, it was shown by the BBC in the late 1950s and early 1960s and repeated in the 1970s and 1980s. In Italy, RAI dubbed many episodes in the early 1960s with the title Avventure in elicottero. It was broadcast in Japan in the early 1960s sponsored by Sony electronics and featured a Japanese-registered Bell 47J with "Sony" on the doors in a special introduction.

Episodes list[edit]

Season 1: 1957[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
11"The Big U"January 3, 1957 (1957-01-03)
22"Rampage"January 10, 1957 (1957-01-10)
33"Boy on the Roof"January 17, 1957 (1957-01-17)
44"Fire Flight"January 24, 1957 (1957-01-24)
55"Hot Wire"January 31, 1957 (1957-01-31)
66"Mountain Flight"February 7, 1957 (1957-02-07)
77"Ghost Town Flight"February 14, 1957 (1957-02-14)
88"Hostage"February 21, 1957 (1957-02-21)
99"Diamond Smugglers"February 28, 1957 (1957-02-28)
1010"Lynch Mob"March 7, 1957 (1957-03-07)
1111"Sky Net"March 14, 1957 (1957-03-14)
1212"Prison Break"March 21, 1957 (1957-03-21)
1313"Top of the Mountain"March 28, 1957 (1957-03-28)
1414"Operation Blue Hen"April 4, 1957 (1957-04-04)
1515"Human Bomb"April 11, 1957 (1957-04-11)
1616"Missing Witness"April 18, 1957 (1957-04-18)
1717"The Egg Code"April 25, 1957 (1957-04-25)
1818"Superstition Mountain"May 2, 1957 (1957-05-02)
1919"Homicide Haven"May 9, 1957 (1957-05-09)
2020"Riptide"May 14, 1957 (1957-05-14)
2121"The Black Pearl"May 23, 1957 (1957-05-23)
2222"Illegal Entry"May 30, 1957 (1957-05-30)
2323"Lady Luck"June 6, 1957 (1957-06-06)
2424"Hide and Seek"June 13, 1957 (1957-06-13)
2525"Hobson's Choice"June 20, 1957 (1957-06-20)
2626"Crisis"June 27, 1957 (1957-06-27)
2727"Journey to the Past"July 4, 1957 (1957-07-04)
2828"Aerial Circus"July 11, 1957 (1957-07-11)
2929"Cycle of Terror"July 18, 1957 (1957-07-18)
3030"Fury Canyon"July 25, 1957 (1957-07-25)
3131"The Rustlers"August 7, 1957 (1957-08-07)
3232"I'll Get Even"August 8, 1957 (1957-08-08)
3333"Incident in Del Rio"August 15, 1957 (1957-08-15)
3434"Sky Hook"August 22, 1957 (1957-08-22)
3535"The Secret Cove"August 29, 1957 (1957-08-29)
3636"Take a Little, Leave a Little"September 5, 1957 (1957-09-05)
3737"Airborne Gold"September 12, 1957 (1957-09-12)
3838"The Iron Mountain"September 17, 1957 (1957-09-17)
3939"Panic at Green Ridge"September 24, 1957 (1957-09-24)

Season 2: 1958–59[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
401"Seven Were Trapped"February 3, 1958 (1958-02-03)
First episode featuring the Bell 47J Ranger helicopter (2838B).
412"The Ashley Case"February 10, 1958 (1958-02-10)
423"Hit and Run"February 17, 1958 (1958-02-17)
434"The Runaway"February 24, 1958 (1958-02-24)
445"The Brothers"March 3, 1958 (1958-03-03)
456"Search for an Unknown Man"March 10, 1958 (1958-03-10)
467"The Killer"March 17, 1958 (1958-03-17)
478"The Unwanted"March 24, 1958 (1958-03-24)
489"Mister Q"March 31, 1958 (1958-03-31)
4910"Seven Orchids"April 7, 1958 (1958-04-07)
5011"Father and Son"April 14, 1958 (1958-04-14)
5112"Time Out of Mind"April 21, 1958 (1958-04-21)
5213"Buy Me a Miracle"April 28, 1958 (1958-04-28)
5314"Infra-Red"May 5, 1958 (1958-05-05)
5415"An Apple for the Teacher"May 12, 1958 (1958-05-12)
5516"Blind Date"May 19, 1958 (1958-05-19)
5617"Blind Victory"May 26, 1958 (1958-05-26)
5718"Copters and Robbers"June 2, 1958 (1958-06-02)
5819"If I Were King"June 9, 1958 (1958-06-09)
5920"Dog Gone"June 16, 1958 (1958-06-16)
6021"Fear"June 23, 1958 (1958-06-23)
6122"Time to Kill"June 30, 1958 (1958-06-30)
6223"Two Came Back"July 7, 1958 (1958-07-07)
6324"Summit Meeting"July 14, 1958 (1958-07-14)
6425"Robert Dixon, M.D."October 20, 1958 (1958-10-20)
6526"Uncle Pete"October 27, 1958 (1958-10-27)
6627"Hideout"November 3, 1958 (1958-11-03)
6728"Baby Face"November 10, 1958 (1958-11-10)
6829"Glamor"November 17, 1958 (1958-11-17)
6930"Address Unknown"November 24, 1958 (1958-11-24)
7031"The Story of Sister Bridget"December 1, 1958 (1958-12-01)
7132"Midnight Show"December 8, 1958 (1958-12-08)
7233"27 Pieces of Gold"December 15, 1958 (1958-12-15)
7334"Dead on Arrival"December 22, 1958 (1958-12-22)
7435"An Act of Fate"December 29, 1958 (1958-12-29)
7536"Always a Gentleman"January 5, 1959 (1959-01-05)
7637"Road Block"January 12, 1959 (1959-01-12)
7738"C.O.D."January 19, 1959 (1959-01-19)
7839"Rest in Peace"January 26, 1959 (1959-01-26)

Season 3: 1959–60[edit]

Ep Title Original air date
791"A Matter of Trust"April 6, 1959 (1959-04-06)
802"Guilty of Old Age"April 13, 1959 (1959-04-13)
813"Christmas in June"April 20, 1959 (1959-04-20)
824"Til Death Do Us Part"April 27, 1959 (1959-04-27)
835"Time Limit"May 4, 1959 (1959-05-04)
846"Experiment X-74"May 11, 1959 (1959-05-11)
857"His Brother's Keeper"May 18, 1959 (1959-05-18)
868"Obsession"May 25, 1959 (1959-05-25)
879"The Challenge"June 1, 1959 (1959-06-01)
8810"The Big Lie"June 8, 1959 (1959-06-08)
8911"Without a Net"June 15, 1959 (1959-06-15)
9012"The Fugitive"June 22, 1959 (1959-06-22)
9113"The Perfect Crime"June 29, 1959 (1959-06-29)
9214"The Unknown Soldier"July 6, 1959 (1959-07-06)
9315"Two of a Kind"July 13, 1959 (1959-07-13)
9416"In Ways Mysterious"July 20, 1959 (1959-07-20)
9517"The Deadly Game"July 27, 1959 (1959-07-27)
9618"Bankrupt Alibi"August 3, 1959 (1959-08-03)
9719"The Black Maria"August 10, 1959 (1959-08-10)
9820"Sitting Duck"August 17, 1959 (1959-08-17)
9921"Wanted: Alive"August 24, 1959 (1959-08-24)
10022"The Deacon"August 31, 1959 (1959-08-31)
10123"Rita Ames Is Missing"September 7, 1959 (1959-09-07)
10224"The Story of Mary Scott"September 14, 1959 (1959-09-14)
10325"Pink Is For Death"September 21, 1959 (1959-09-21)
10426"Star Witness"September 28, 1959 (1959-09-28)
10527"Mr. Jinx"October 5, 1959 (1959-10-05)
10628"File 777"October 12, 1959 (1959-10-12)
10729"Hot Cargo"October 19, 1959 (1959-10-19)
10830"Shoot Out"October 26, 1959 (1959-10-26)
10931"Man, You Kill Me"November 2, 1959 (1959-11-02)
11032"Dead Wrong"November 19, 1959 (1959-11-19)
11133"Four Little Indians"January 18, 1960 (1960-01-18)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Database (undated). "Episode List for Whirlybirds (1957)". IMDb. Accessed December 27, 2010.
  2. ^ Disk 8 of collection sold by "Classics4Lymphoma"
  3. ^ Disk 8 & 9 of collection sold by "Classics4Lymphoma"
  4. ^ Disk 11 of collection sold by "Classics4Lymphoma"
  5. ^ Disk 9 of collection sold by "Classics4Lymphoma"
  • The New Whirlybirds & Tribute Details of program.
  • McNeil, Alex (1984). Total Television — A Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1984 to the Present. p. 712. Penguin Books (New York City). ISBN 0-14-007377-9.

External links[edit]