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. It was produced by Desilu Studios.
The program features the exploits of Chuck Martin and Pete “P. T.” Moore (Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill, respectively), 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, entitled “Bon Voyage” and first aired on CBS on January 16, 1956, Lucy Ricardo misses the sailing of her trans-Atlantic oceanliner and commandeers a friendly 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 TV 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 copter 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 TV series, Lassie. Entitled “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).