The Erickson S-64 Aircrane Is a Flying Swiss Army Knife

Most helicopters are one-trick ponies. They perform the thing they're designed for very well and they don't do much more. That's not the case with the Erickson S-64, a versatile, capable vehicle that could be thought of as an airborne Ford F-150.

The S-64 was originally developed in the early 1960s by the Sikorsky company and based on the older S-60 helicopter. The S-64 served a stint in various national air forces before Erickson Air-Crane, of Central Point, Oregon purchased production rights to the aircraft in 1992.

Erickson has performed thousands of modifications to the design to arrive at the aircraft's current version—a 70-foot long, 18-foot tall, 19,234-pound beast. Its dual Pratt & Whitney turboshaft engines each produce 4,500 SHP and drive a six-blade main rotor. This allows the S-64 to transport a 20,000-pound payload as high as 9,000 feet and as far as 200 nautical miles.

The S-64 is the first helicopter built with a rear-facing pilot's seat—this allows the pilot to watch exactly where the load is being placed as he's flying the helicopter. The feature came in handy in 1993, when an S-64 removed and replaced the Statue of Freedom from the US Capitol building during a renovation. When transporting a big load like that, the S-64 uses an anti-rotation rigging system that prevents the aircraft from twisting and swaying.

As a utility aircraft, the S-64 has numerous uses. Its 10,000-liter storage tank and 300 gpm water cannon make the helicopter an invaluable asset for fighting fires, both in open brush as Australia's Elvis demonstrates but also for high-rise fires where conventional fire hoses won't reach. The S-64 is also adept at spreading Hydroseed mix or lime using the same cannon.

It is equally valuable on the construction site. The Aircrane's heavy-lifting capabilities are ideal for any job from stringing large gauge electrical wire above manufacturing facilities to installing the CN Tower's steel girders and antenna. It is even employed in the lumber industry as a method of hauling logs from remote mountainsides. [Wikipedia, Erickson Aircrane]