Placing large loads onto small pins using an Erickson Air-Crane, a machine with 9,600 shaft horsepower and a 72-foot rotor, is a bit like threading a needle with a leaf blower. The key is the back seat driver.
Unique among helicopters, the Erickson Air Crane has a third pilot’s seat, facing aft toward the tail rotor.
An enclosure similar to a glassed-in phone booth contains flight controls that operate the helicopter’s trim systems, making small adjustments possible.
Perched on the tiny cushion, the rear pilot has a perfect view of the area beneath the machine.
When wildfires are at their worst, as they have been in recent years, there are few more potent weapons than the giant orange dragonfly that is the Erickson S-64 Air Crane helicopter.
Erickson bought the manufacturing rights to the S-64 Sky Crane from Sikorsky in 1992, changed the name to Air Crane and has been building, operating and improving the 70-foot-long (21 meter) bus faced super heavy lift helicopter ever since.
S-64 pilot and training captain Keith Gill joins Rotor Radio to discuss the unique helicopter’s firefighting abilities. Flying for Oregon-based Erickson, Gill has followed the fire season around the globe from Australia to Greece to the western U.S. most years for the better part of four decades.
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