The Bel-Con Blog

Helicopters vs. Cranes: Using Heavy-Lift Equipment

orange helicopter sitting behind an orange truck with warehouse in background
Sitting behind one of our Bel-Con pickup trucks back in 1990, this Sikorsky S64 Erickson Air-Crane looks like it's part of our fleet.

They say what goes up must come down, which is especially true when it comes to the installation of roof top units, like HVAC and process equipment. The important thing is being able to set items like that (which are often quite bulky and heavy) in the precise positions where they're intended to provide years of service. This is no easy task when you're dealing with large commercial structures such as warehouses and shipping depots.

Using the Right Tool for the Job

We use a variety of tools and heavy equipment to construct large commercial and industrial facilities. Possibly one of the most unique pieces of machinery available to us was the S64 Erickson Air-Crane. Developed in 1962, this workhorse of a helicopter weighs 10 tons and is 88 feet long. These whirlybirds have been used for everything from putting the top on the CN Tower to putting out forest fires! You can read a little more about the S64 in this article from Flying Magazine. 

The S64 Erickson Air-Crane was used to lift rooftop equipment onto the Sears Warehouse roof in Belleville during original construction in 1990.

Although things are different now, back in 1990 when the original Sears warehouse was being built the mobile cranes available simply didn't have the capability to do the job required. The only way to put large roof top units in place on such large roofs was to use helicopters like the S64 Air-Crane. 

Project Management Brings all the Elements Together

On the original project, Bel-Con served as the site agent for Sears. This meant taking on a role as a liaison between Eastern Construction, who was the general contractor, and the different parties involved from Sears along with other outside consultants. To do this, we had a dedicated person onsite full time to record the minutes of the meetings, handle requests for information, and change orders, etc., effectively serving as the project administrator. In addition to that, we did some parts of the actual construction as one of the sub-trades involved. 

Keeping Up With Today's Equipment

A 900 ton mobile crane hoists heavy rooftop equipment onto the Sears Warehouse in Belleville.

Flash forward to the present day and the team opted to use a mobile crane‎ this time as we coordinated new roof openings and modifications as required to accept the new equipment. You'll see that the equipment has come a long way as the 900 ton mobile crane used has the capacity to do the job and is possibly the largest in Ontario and maybe even Canada! Although the roof top units are not anywhere near 900 tons, the distance in from the edge of the roof that they have to reach is what creates the need for such a large crane (or as in the past, a heavy air-lift vehicle like the S64).

While the equipment may change, the one thing you can depend on is that Bel-Con will find a way to get the job done!

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