What Was That Hovering Over the Loop? A Gigantic Orange Dragonfly?

By Michael Cusack

One of the world’s most powerful helicopters visited Chicago recently, the Erickson S-64 Aircrane.

The Aircrane is used to lift very heavy loads to high places that can’t be easily reached by crane or truck.   In Chicago, the Aircrane was lifting HVAC units to the top of a building downtown.  

These copters can lift 25,000 pounds or 6 Ford F-150 at once. Wow was it impressive! Here’s one landing at Vertiport Chicago, North America’s largest helicopter airport located in the downtown Chicago’s Illinois Medical District.          

Erickson Air flies the world’s largest fleet of heavy lift helicopters, the Aircranes.  At present the fleet is spread around the world, each one given a name, like Olga, Camille, or Elvis.  

These incredible machines are used to place giant HVAC units atop skyscrapers, upgrade high transmission lines, fight forest fires or ferry supplies and personnel to remote locations.  

There are 3 pilots, two facing forward and one backwards. Why backwards? Well, during lifting operations, the third pilot stands in a Plexiglas booth, looking down at the load and delivery point and actually flies the Aircrane from the booth. Once the load is in place, the other two pilots fly the Aircrane back for the next load. 

Here’s an unexpected twist: when an Aircrane lands, it leaves its motors running while it refuels. The Aircrane’s motors burned gas so quickly that our pumps could not keep up so we pumped fuel into the Erickson fueler truck which had a high-speed pump that could get ahead of the engines.  

Talk about power! 

If you want to learn more about the Aircrane check it out here: http://ericksoninc.com/ or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-64_Skycrane. 



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