Massive 'copter lands in Lloyd

By Geoff Lee

November 29, 2016 12:00 AM

GUZZLER Lloydminster airport crews attend to the refueling of this giant Erickson Air-Crane that touched down Friday on route from Red Deer to Thompson, Man., to install power lines. The chopper burns 500 gallons of JetA1 fuel per hour. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO

The Lloydminster Airport held its second free air show in as many months with the touchdown of a giant Erickson Air-Crane helicopter named Bubba.
The arrival of the workhorse chopper for refuelling on Friday follows the landing in September of an F-18 fighter jet to inaugurate the airport as an alternative to 4 Wing Cold Lake.
“Cool” was the word airport manager Fred Ackerman used upon hearing the heavy lift S-64 helicopter was heading our way.
Ackerman said it was coming to gulp down 4,000 litres of Jet A1 fuel, but he left it to some of the crew members to explain why they picked Lloydminster.
“We are on our way through, this is one of our fuel stops,” said crew chief, Court Jones who is in charge of maintenance and some of the logistics.
“We’re heading over to Thompson (Manitoba), we have some work to do over there—we are setting up power towers.”
“This is a great place for us to fuel stop.”
The S-64 made by Erickson Air-Crane burns through 500 gallons of fuel an hour with additional refuelling stops in Prince Albert Sask. and Flin Flon, Man.
This is the first time an S-64 has refuelled in Lloydminster, but the size of the airport and the community it serves is secondary to having the right fuel for the airdraft.
“We pick the best path,” said Jones who lives in Bend, Oregon.
“If they have jet fuel for us and it’s on our path to where we’re going to, it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, as long as they’ve got the fuel we need, that’s where we try to go.”
Jet A1 fuel is also what the F-18 fighter jet required in September, the first and last military jet refueling so far at the airport.
“‘We’re just on a standby in case there’s an event out there where they can’t land at their airport,” said Ackerman.
The Erickson Air-Crane was parked in Red Deer for awhile after the crew wrapped up a job at the Blackjack gold mine near Stewart, B.C.
Its next job is setting power lines northeast of Thompson to La Pas.
“It’s a great machine that does very well—I’ve flown it for a number of years,” said pilot, Brad Warren from Hamilton, Montana.
Asked if he was ready for the cold in Manitoba, he said, “Your weather’s been a little warm, so they are kind of waiting for the ground to freeze up a little bit.”
Warren piloted the same helicopter for the Government of Canada last winter on an emergency mission to Baffin Island.
“We put it on a big Russian airplane in Vancouver and flew to Iqaluit and flew emergency generators to Pangnirtung,” said Warren who is no stranger to cold climates.
He used to live and work in Alaska.
“It’s surprising warm now, but we’ve got the cold gear, we’re ready for it,” he said.
Warren said the Manitoba contractor is hoping to complete the job during 16 days of good weather before Dec. 20 with some more work possible in the new year.
As for returning to Lloydminster, he said, “Later on in the spring, it’s possible we may pass back this way again, but it’s too early to tell right now.”
The S-64 helicopter has worked worldwide.
“It’s a great aircraft for what we do and that’s lifting heavy objects or firefighting,” said Jones.
The S-64 has done everything from unloading HVAC systems on the top of skyscrapers and hoisting logs to lifting water to fire forest fires in different countries.
The helicopters were originally a Sikorsky Aircraft product built for the U.S. Army as heavy transport carriers.
Erickson Air-Crane bought the manufacturing rights in 1962.
Jones thinks the airframe for Bubba was made in ‘72 or ‘73.
“This was rebuilt about three years ago and updated with modern avionics,” he said.

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