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Helicopter aids in construction of Victoria Caterpillar plant

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 25, 2011 at 5:25 a.m.

An Air-Crane sits at Victoria Regional Airport. The copter was in town to set massive air conditioners on the roof of the new Caterpillar plant. Each AC unit weighs 14,000 to 15,000 pounds.

Want to know more?

For more information on Erickson Air-Crane Inc., visit http://www.ericksonaircrane.com.

Erickson S-64E Air-Crane

Originally manufacture by Sikorsky Aircraft as S-64A Skycrane helicopter.

Manufacturing rights were purchased from Sikorsky Aircraft by Erickson Air-Crane in 1992.

External load lift capacity of 20,000 pounds.

Six-blade fully articulated main rotor and a four-blade tail rotor.

Powered by two Pratt and Whitney turbine engines generating a combined maximum takeoff rating of 9,000 SHP

SOURCE: ericksonaircrane.com

Construction continues on Victoria's Caterpillar hydraulic excavator plant and, recently, the company received help from above.

No, it wasn't divine intervention, but assistance in helicopter form.

A heavy lift helicopter transported 19 air conditioning units onto Caterpillar's roof Sunday, Jim Dugan, Caterpillar's chief corporate spokesman, said in an email. Each air conditioning unit weighed 14,000 to 15,000 pounds, Dugan said.

The copter in question was an Erickson S-64E Air-Crane, a bright orange aircraft that can lift up to 20,000 pounds at sea level, according to the Erickson Air-Crane, Inc. website.

The helicopter has a six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor, according to the site, and is built to allow the pilot to see the load he's hauling while still maintaining control of the aircraft.

Unusual aircraft makes its way to Victoria from time to time, Airport Manager Jason Milewski said, but it was the first time he had seen such a helicopter in the Crossroads. He said he suspected the same was true for most of the airport staff.

"We enjoyed the experience," he said. "It's a very rare aircraft and it's very large. It was interesting."

The helicopter made its way to the airport Friday afternoon and left Monday morning, Milewski said.

Victoria resident Gayla Goff heard the noisy helicopter from her Victoria home Sunday and got a first-hand look at it when she and her husband took a ride in their own plane. She said she was surprised at the sight.

"It was just a strange-looking creature with these long kind of legs," she said with a laugh. "I think our tiny plane could probably have fit underneath."

Goff said she read up a bit more about the copter online and learned some about it from her husband.

"I'd just never seen anything like it before," she said, noting the helicopters don't just haul heavy machinery, but can hold water to assist in fighting fires. "It really was interesting."

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