Aerial crane

Infobox Aviation
name = Aerial crane

caption = A Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane carrying a house

One of the most unusual commercial uses of helicopters is the aerial crane or "skycrane". As aerial cranes, helicopters carry loads connected to long cables or slings in order to place heavy equipment such as transmission towers and large air conditioning units on the tops of tall buildings or when an item must be raised up in a remote area, such as a radio tower raised on the top of a hill or mountain, far from the nearest road.

Helicopters were first used as aerial cranes in the 1950s, but it was not until the 1960s that the popularity of the use of skycranes in the construction and other industries began to catch on. The most popular use of helicopters as aerial cranes is in the logging industry to lift large trees out of rugged terrain where vehicles aren't able to reach, or where environmental concerns prohibit the buildings of roads. These operations are referred to as "longline" because of the long, single sling line used to carry the load.


Bell 47 helicopters were the first, lightweight aerial cranes to be used in the early 1950s. Unfortunately, due to the helicopter's limited power, it was never capable of carrying more than just a few hundred pounds of cargo. In the 1960s, the Sikorsky S-58 replaced the Bell 47 because of its larger power margin. Even today, S-58s can be found carrying medium-size loads. The 1960s also brought the Bell 211 "HueyTug", a specially produced commercial version of the UH-1C for lifting medium loads, and even the popular Bell 206 was used for light loads. But there continued to be a demand for aircraft able to lift even larger loads

Larger helicopters became commercially available after the Vietnam War as helicopter manufacturers focused on selling commercial versions of their military aircraft. For instance, Boeing Vertol Model 107 and Model 234 aircraft have been used to carry even heavier payloads than their lighter predecessors. But the heaviest loads required a pure aerial crane. The answer came from Sikorsky's S-64 Skycrane. Originally produced for the military as the CH-54 Tarhe for heavy lifting of downed aircraft and artillery pieces, the S-64 Skycrane was nothing more than just enough airframe to attach two powerful engines, the main and tail rotors and transmissions, a cockpit, and a cargo hook and winch system.

Skycranes were used in 1972 when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge connecting Maryland and the Eastern Shore was being built to bring concrete and other supplies to the construction site. In 1993, an Erickson aerial Skycrane, normally used for hauling lumber in Oregon, was used to remove the “Statue of Freedom” from the top of the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. The statue was placed on the ground while it was being cleaned and restored before being gently returned to the top of the dome, once again with a Skycrane.


* Carson Helicopters, established 1963, operates Sikorsky S-61.
* Columbia Helicopters, established 1957, operates Boeing Vertol 107-II and Boeing 234.
* Croman Corporation, established 1976, operates Sikorsky S-61.
* Erickson Air-Crane, established 1971, operates the Erickson S-64 Aircrane.
* Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., established 1960, operates S-64 Skycrane and Sikorsky S-61.
* Heavy Lift Helicopters operating CH-54 Tarhe and CH-53 Sea Stallion.
* Swanson Group Aviation, formerly Superior Helicopter, established 1995 operates Kaman K-MAX and Aérospatiale Lama.

Purpose-designed aircraft

* CH-54 Tarhe
* Kaman K-MAX
* Kamov Ka-27K
* Mil Mi-10
* S-64 Skycrane

See also

* Helicopter



External links

* [ Erickson Air-Crane]
* [ Evergreen Helicopters, Inc.]

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