Magnum Helicopter Returns to Hawaii

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It must have been a great lifestyle. A private detective, living in the grounds of a millionaire’s estate, a free Ferrari 308 GTS to drive and a mate with a Hughes 500D who didn’t ever need fuel, overhauls or to bother with height limits. What’s not to like? Magnum PI was one of my favourite shows and I often wondered what happened to Roger E. Mosley and that Hughes 500D. Seems we were not alone, as a couple of years ago, Phoenix Heliparts in Arizona took an out of hours Hughes 500D as a trade for a new machine and decided that, as it was an ex-Honolulu Police aircraft, what better than to rebuild it as the Magnum PI machine?

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Several years later and at Heli Expo earlier this year, the helicopter drew huge attention in their stand, with cast members Roger e Mosley (pilot) and Larry Manetti (Magnum’s pal and ex-Vietnam door gunner) on hand to sign autographs and also the machine itself. The occasion was the handing over ceremony to it’s new owner.

It’s new home is, indeed, back in Hawaii and a tourist helicopter of Paradise Helicopters. I imagine if the usual trademark issues can be overcome, they’ll be offering the Magnum PI tour around the island. While it’s probably the most famous helicopter on television, the paint scheme wasn’t unique, being one of several paint options on the Hughes price list at the time.

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The replica Hughes overhauled by Phoenix is indeed impressive. While the paint job and registration is the original, everything else on the D Model Hughes has been uprated, with the latest avionics and systems to help with it’s new role carrying tourists. As many of the characters of the Magnum PI series were Vietnam aircrew, Paradise have agreed to donate a percentage of everything the helicopter generates in it’s new life to the Wounded Warrior charity.

As for the original machine from the series, various stories abound. One helicopter was destroyed in a filming accident that claimed the life of a cameraman, the other seems to have disappeared, last heard of in Kentucky working on electricity powerline contracts. It’s probably sitting in a hangar somewhere, talking about the good old days to the younger Robinsons parked alongside.

The “New” Magnum PI Helicopter in Hawaii from Aerial Filmworks on Vimeo.

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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  • For clarification, N58428 never depicted T.C.’s Island Hopper Helicopter.

    That has been a myth propagated because people have misconstrued notations in its log book which says, “Mag PI film work” and “MPI equipment trans.”

    It was owned by Jetcopters Incorporated, based at Van Nuys Airport, in California.

    N58428 was being used extensively in Hollywood, on virtually every t.v. show from the 1980’s (ie. Knight Rider, AIRWOLF, Streethawk, The A-Team, Scarecrow and Mrs King, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Fall Guy, Simon & Simon etc.)

    It also famously portrayed the bad guy helicopter flown by Malcom McDowell’s character in Columbia Pictures movie, Blue Thunder.

    The Magnum P.I. episode, “Birds of a Feather” was filmed in California, and N58428 was used as a camera ship, for that episode and possibly others. Hence; “Mag PI film work and MPI equipment trans”, in its logbook, indicating its use as a camera ship.

    But N58428 was never painted up with the famous orange, yellow and brown, bands, and never depicted T.C.’s helicopter. It was just used on Magnum as a camera helicopter.

    I have done extensive research on this.

    If you don’t believe me, borrow the DVD’s from the library, like I did, and watch all 8 seasons, (fast forwarding) to the helicopter scenes, you can clearly see the registration numbers when they show the various helicopters… and N58428 was never on the show.

    There were a total five different helicopters that depicted T. C.’s helicopter:

    N58243 – S1
    N2958 – S2
    N1095A – S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6
    N4943T – S6, S7

    and possibly
    N9267F (500C with fake registration as N58243)