Starring Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill

Whirlybirds first aired in 1957 and continued until 1959 with a total of 111 episodes. The show was conceived and produced by Desilu Studios and made a star out of the Bell 47 helicopter, with its daring rescues in the half-hour episodes. CBS syndicated 39 episodes of the series, but renamed it Copter Patrol. Whirlybirds was a highly successful series with an estimated audience of 25 million viewers, this was a phenomenal audience in the 1950s.

The two pilots Chuck Martin (Kenneth Tobey) and P.T. Moore (Craig Hill) proved to be more than able to deal with any crisis which they might face in each week's story. The storylines usually consisted of the airborne duo confronting a natural disaster, villiany or human ineptitude.

Kenneth Tobey a
nd Craig Hill in the 'Whirlybird'

For the first four episodes of Whirlybirds, the helicopters were supplied by Bell Helicopters to Desilu Studios free of charge. At this early stage in the production, Desilu was uncertain if the show would be successful. Once the show proved itself with viewers, Bell Helicopters told Desilu they could no longer offer their services free, as they would be competing with their operators.

National Helicopters, being the largest operator of Bell helicopters, and having already worked for Desilu got the job. National Helicopters worked on the series throughout the next 107 episodes supplying the helicopters, pilots, expertise and accessories for all the aerial portions of the series. Listen to the theme tune for Whirlybirds.

Watch Complete episodes of Whirlybirds


Our thanks to Richard Hart of The National Helicopter Service for images and information.

Richard Hart 1925-2011

All images copyright National Helicopter Service