As head constructor, you’re the one responsible for making sure your construction project is completed safely, on time, and under budget. Utilizing aerial crane services is one of the best ways to complete a complicated project more quickly and efficiently.
Whether the job involves challenges such as high altitude, scorching temperatures, or mountainous terrain, you can rest assured your heavy-lift helicopter company is up to the task.
However, before you get started, there are certain matters you should take into consideration. Here are 6 things to know before hiring helicopter construction services.
1. Aerial cranes can save you time and money over traditional ground cranes
Before you start factoring helicopter lifting services into your construction budget, it’s important to understand how these aerial cranes can save you time and money over standard ground cranes. After all, you may have to justify your decisions to project investors, shareholders, and other parties who have a stake in your company’s success.
Here’s an overview of 5 ways helicopter-aided construction can move your project along more quickly and under budget:
- More efficient preliminary assessments. Helicopters enable you to perform aerial surveys and hazard assessments prior to starting your project. These critical evaluations can help you spot potential problem areas that could plague your job with hefty expenses down the line.
- Increased maneuverability and precision. Large windows and aerial views (as well as the ability to spin 360 degrees) facilitate more accurate placement of loads. This level of precision can help reduce the need for costly repairs and time-consuming corrections later on.
- Simpler and more cost-effective setup and teardown. Because aerial cranes require very little setup, you can avoid traffic jams and travel delays that may otherwise slow or halt your project.
- Increased accessibility. Helicopters are capable of flying over high-traffic zones with few access points, which means your pilot can deliver cargo more quickly and easily. They’re also capable of working in high altitudes and temperatures, as well as in largely inaccessible areas (rooftops, mountains, forests, swamps, etc.).
- Ability to lift heavier loads faster. Helicopter cranes require less frequent changeover since these aircraft can transport more cargo in a single load.
Want to dive deeper into the many ways construction helicopters save you time and money?
2. Heavy-lift helicopters are useful for more than just cargo transport
Helicopters are beneficial for more than just lifting and transporting heavy construction materials from one location to another. Before you get to work on developing your heavy-lift project plan, you’ll want to make sure you understand all the different stages of your project where a crane helicopter can save you time and money.
But you don’t have to go it alone–your aerial crane company project manager will help you develop your lifting and flight plans. In the meantime, review the many different ways an aerial crane can assist you throughout the entirety of your job:
- Lifting and transporting heavy construction materials (brick, concrete, dirt, gravel, steel, stones, wood, etc.)
- Transporting coal, oil, and natural gas
- Rig moves
- Installing and removing heavy rooftop units (HVAC systems, chillers, ventilation systems, and more)
- Placing hefty water tanks and septic tanks
- Power line or pipeline construction
- Cell tower and radio transmission tower construction
- Ski lift construction
- Setting wood, steel, and concrete poles
- Monopole and lattice structures
- Roofing and ducting
- Foundation pour
Learn more about the various ways you can use a helicopter crane.
3. Crane helicopters have certain limitations you should be aware of
Your hired helicopter lifting company will help you choose the best helicopter for your construction job based on factors such as:
- Project type
- Project environment
- Weight and orientation of cargo
- Number of passengers
However, it’s important that you’re aware of the various limitations of these heavy-lift aircraft, from weather restrictions to weight and passenger constraints.
Aerial cranes are designed to remain stable–even in rough terrain, areas of elevated atmospheric pressure, and inclement weather. However, there are some factors that can create risky or even downright dangerous conditions.
Your pilot is trained to never take unnecessary risks, so be sure to heed their advice and design a backup plan for alternate weather days.
Every construction helicopter, no matter how powerful, has a maximum lifting capacity that you cannot safely exceed.
This maximum weight limit can also be affected by factors such as:
- Wind strength
- General weather conditions
- Size of staging area
- Surrounding terrain and nearby structures
- Available flight space
Light utility helicopters can typically lift between 1,200 and 4,000 pounds, while the world’s largest heavy-lift helicopter can transport up to 44,000 pounds. For most aerial construction projects, however, you’ll likely require a lift capacity between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds.
To give you an idea of the external lifting ability of various helicopters, here are the maximum external loads of 4 popular aerial cranes frequently chosen for heavy-lift and utility construction projects:
- Kaman K-Max K-1200 – Maximum External Load: 6,000 pounds
- Bell 205A-1++ – Maximum External Load: 4,000 pounds
- Airbus AS-350 B3 – Maximum External Load: 3,200 pounds
- Bell 407HP – Maximum External Load: 2,500 pounds
Just as each utility helicopter has a maximum weight limit and external load capacity, they also have varying passenger restrictions. Some aircraft only allow for one or two pilots, while others can safely transport a pilot as well as 9 or 10 passengers.
Here are the passenger limits for the 4 popular construction helicopters highlighted above:
- Kaman K-Max K-1200 – Passenger Limit: 0 passengers
- Bell 205A-1++ – Passenger Limit: 9 passengers
- Airbus AS-350 B3 – Passenger Limit: 5 passengers
- Bell 407HP – Passenger Limit: 6 passengers
4. Helicopter lifting requires careful and strategic planning
Helicopter-aided construction requires a detailed and strategic blueprint. However, you’re not alone in developing your plan. In fact, your project manager and dedicated helicopter lifting team will guide you through each step of the process, from your initial consultation to your lifting and flight plan.
You’ll work together, along with any other essential workplace parties, to tackle each of the following planning points:
- Scheduling planning meetings
- Signing contracts
- Completing training and pre-job briefing
Certifying load weights, shapes, sizes, and orientation. Marking loads with their weights and required orientation.
Selecting or designing rigging devices and creating a plan for each load type.
Choosing the best helicopter for your project. Considerations include load line, hook-up device, and cable/sling type.
Flight plan & lifting plan
- Planning the staging area
- Designating a refueling area
- Dividing the job into various lifting zones
- Developing the load lifting sequence
- Outlining the lifting and flight path
Identifying, evaluating, and eliminating potential risks, including:
- Unsecured materials
- Roof openings and unprotected roof edges
- Inclement weather conditions
Inspecting and testing all rigging components. Recording the results.
Following up on all points identified during the risk assessment, including:
- Establishing protections against falls
- Cleaning up the site (remove any loose or unsecured material)
- Checking that all structures are secure
- Determining the crew size required for your project
- Assigning individual responsibilities
- Providing proper training regarding fall hazards, pinch points, and protective equipment
- Creating a plan to rotate crew members
Establishing the necessary signals (radio, hand, emergency, and warning) prior to hoisting.
Emergency preparedness plan
- Establishing emergency contacts
- Preparing an emergency plan (signals in case of emergency, escape route for your ground crew, etc.)
- Communicating the plan to all workplace parties
5. You’ll have several key responsibilities as head constructor
As head constructor, you’ll be responsible for crucial tasks that will ensure your project moves along smoothly and everything goes according to plan.
Here’s an overview of several essential job functions you can expect to tackle:
- Identifying the various operations you’ll need the helicopter to perform
- Clearly defining your project timeline and lifting schedule
- Communicating with your utility helicopter company to determine the staging area
- Working together to develop lifting plans and flight plans
- Establishing a system to ensure all workplace parties take the required safety measures
- Complying with all other regulations provided by the heavy-lift helicopter company
6. You may be required to notify various parties before you begin lifting
Communication will be key throughout each step of your project, so it’s vital that you notify all parties of the time and location of each aerial lift.
However, you may also be required to notify public safety officials, local air traffic control, and other local authorities of your plan to use an aerial crane.
Your helicopter lifting company will help you make sense of the laws for utilizing a helicopter crane in your jurisdiction and make sure you notify the proper authorities prior to lifting.