Aerial Cranes and Properties with Poor Construction Equipment Access

Helicopter Transport in Construction and EngineeringA few days ago, I saw a report on the global crane market forecast for 2017 through 2024. It got me thinking about the different types of cranes that I have used in my career. Especially aerial cranes. Aerial cranes are great because they can be used to move large loads in areas that are hard to access and they can do so at a fraction of the price of a traditional crane. They also do not require the set up and tear down process that a traditional crane requires.

Sometimes we get asked to work on properties that are difficult to access. This could include a property that is in a remote area, on a small parcel with limited access due to surrounding properties or buildings, or in mountainous areas.   In the 1970’s and 1980’s I worked in the offshore oil fields, where helicopters and boats were the only means of transport to and from our project sites.  We recently evaluated a hillside property in San Diego that is inaccessible to heavy equipment except by helicopter.

In the case of a property that cannot accommodate a wide equipment delivery area, or properties where the soils are not stable enough to bring in heavy equipment, we sometimes make the choice to deploy an aerial crane.

An aerial crane, also known as a flying crane, is really a fancy way to describe a helicopter that has been specially designed for moving heavy loads. The loads are typically connected to long cables or slings that are affixed to the helicopter’s chassis. This type of crane was first used in the 1950s & 60s, but has become more widely used over the years as the technology and scope of such helicopters has improved.

These helicopters can be used to bring in heavy equipment and materials to the job site where a normal crane might have difficulties. Common types of materials transported are lumber, steel or prefabricated units, such as HVAC equipment or concrete piping. In addition, equipment like bulldozers, excavators, drilling rigs, or dump trucks can also be transported using aerial cranes. A typical flying crane can transport around 2 tons and can be more cost effective than using other methods to transport materials to a difficult to reach construction site.

Sometimes, a helicopter can be the preferred method of equipment transport in cases where cost is an issue, as they can mitigate the impact of setting up and tearing down a conventional crane. In some cases, traditional cranes may not be the ideal choice due to soil instability or due to spacing issues where the crane’s boom is unable to reach the top of an existing building.  We may also need to lift equipment over the top of existing buildings, and the combination of weight and distance is too great for conventional cranes.

The cost of a crane is usually impacted by the location of the materials needing to be transported, their destination, and their weight.  Sometimes accessibility of a land-based crane is an issue, particularly in neighborhoods with narrow streets.  In a recent project last year in Long Beach, we considered using a barge-mounted crane to deliver our drilling equipment to a site with limited street access.  Fortunately, the conventional truck-mounted crane that we hired was capable of travelling the narrow streets and narrow turns to get to the site.

At Helfrich-Associates, our team of engineers and construction experts will evaluate your property’s location and soil stability to discover whether a traditional crane is right for your property and project. Once we completely assess the property and the scope of the project we will make a recommendation on whether or not an aerial crane is right for you.

Have you ever had to use an aerial crane on a project involving your property? Tell us about your experience in the comments section, below.

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