Helicopter Rigging & Lifts

Let's Face It – You Can't Get There From Here
There are simply some places that are inaccessible by more common means of transportation. This holds true in the rigging industry also. Rigging has been defined as the specialized moving and lifting of objects that cannot be performed by ordinary means, through the use of equipment specifically designed for heavy loads. Enter the helicopter.

Where Is There?
Difficult, inaccessible locations exist as: very high elevations; remote work sites; marine environments; extremely long reaches.

HelicoptersOther Reasons To Choose
A Helicopter Lift While on the surface the choice to use a helicopter for a particular project may seem overly expensive, the comparative speed at which lifts can be completed often times results in an overall project cost savings. In Salem, Virginia, twenty-two (22) massive HVAC units were flown into place atop a 150,000 square foot Lowes Home Improvement warehouse in just over 30 minutes by AirCrane Incorporated, Winder, Georgia†. The entire helicopter commitment at the project site was one hour.

A Brief History
A form of the helicopter was envisioned and sketched by Leonardo da Vinci as early as the mid 1400s. It was not until 1907 that French inventors accomplished actual maned flight, albeit limited to a hover of only a few feet. Russian immigrant Igor Sikorsky is credited with the first true modern successful helicopter flight in 1940. Later rotor efficiency improvements allowed the helicopter to lift more than its empty weight. Since 1960, continued aeronautical research and development has produced large increases in helicopter lifting capacity and performance.

Not Just Objects, But Materials Too
Riggers safely and efficiently harvest raw wood products by helicopter during timber and logging operations. Large capacity buckets are rigged to helicopters to allow placement of concrete at very high elevations or remote locations. Water storage buckets are rigged to aid in forest fire suppression.

Special Rigging Considerations During Lifts
The techniques, hardware and sling selections, hitches, and signals normally used in conventional rigging can also pertain to helicopter rigging. There are however some special considerations:

  • The very nature of the hoist, a helicopter, necessarily means that a greater degree of in- stability exists. This instability is not unlike the potential experienced by a barge mounted crane or derrick in a marine environment.
  • For safety, the heightened importance of the signalman to be in clear view of the operator (the helicopter pilot) cannot be overstated.
  • Helicopter rotors produce a large amount of prop or downwash, the air forced down by the aerodynamic action of the blade in motion. This downwash along with continual rotor and helicopter engine-generated noise can become distressing to the Rigger during lift projects of long duration.
  • Poor weather conditions and inadequate aerial clearances (power lines and other obstruc- tions) may prevent the use of a rigging helicopter.

The Aircraft
Here is a list of the more common aircraft used in modern-day helicopter rigging.

  • Sikorsky S-58T
  • Sikorsky CH-53E
  • Sikorsky 158AC
  • Bell 214B-1

Attributes Of A Good Helicopter Rigging Contractor
◦ Not just a broker for helicopter; select an owner-operator if at all possible
◦ Full service-multiple aircraft style and lift capacity choices
◦ Capable of quoting firm bid price
◦ Fully insured

A listing of helicopter rigging service companies can be found at:

http://www.thebluebook.com/cl/all2400.htm

Additional Considerations
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers publishes a standard referenced as ASME B30.12 that addresses the handling of loads suspended from rotorcraft using cargo sling or powered hoist, or other attaching means, to lift, carry , pull, tow a jettisonable load outside of the rotorcraft airframe. The standard is entitled “Handling Loads Suspended from Rotorcraft”.

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