The arrival of Erickson in town to carry out a lift was described in a previous post which you can check out here. While I was predominantly shooting stills for this lift, I continue to grab some video footage when the opportunity presents itself. I have put together a short video of the lift and you can see it below.
Regular readers of this blog will know how much I enjoy shooting helicopter lift operations in the city. Midwest Helicopters are the local operator and a great bunch of people who have helped me out lots of times. This lift proved to be one of those times although it wasn’t them doing the job. They had finished a job in the city on a very snowy morning and I was exchanging messages with their Chief Pilot when he mentioned that Erickson were in town for a job.
Erickson specialize in lifting very heavy equipment. Midwest fly Sikorsky S-58T aircraft which are good for about 4,500lbs. Construction Helicopters in Michigan (who have made appearances on this blog too) have S-58T aircraft as well but tend to bring S-61Ns to Chicago since they have a higher capacity of up to 8,000lbs so can lift loads too heavy for the local guys. Erickson are a different story altogether. They build and operate the S-64 which can lift a whopping 25,000lbs. This is obviously way above the capabilities of the other operators and way more than most jobs can justify.
Consequently, an appearance by Erickson in town is not so common and is worthy of a look. Moreover, they were lifting just across the river from my home so how could I not go? I have worked on site with Erickson before and so contemplated calling to arrange to be there for this job. However, I was suffering with a bit of a cold and the weather forecast did not look promising so I decided to not try and be on site but to shoot from outside the safety perimeter. Since the lift was alongside the river, getting good shots should not prove to be difficult.
Come the morning of the lift, visibility was terrible and snow was falling hard. All this could be seen from my window so I didn’t need to be out on the ground. Instead, I got ready at a leisurely pace and grabbed a couple of cameras when the weather started to improve. The streets around the Hyatt Regency hotel (the location of the job) had been closed for a while which I found curious since they obviously weren’t going to start until the weather cleared. Lifting in poor conditions is tricky enough but getting to the site in the first place is more of a problem.
As the weather started to clear, I talked to one of the crews maiming the perimeter and he confirmed that they had launched and were on their way, Time to wait. The S-64 is a big beast and you don’t have any questions when it arrives. It’s sound travels well and you know it is coming. Fortunately, there were a bunch of loads to go up (and some to come down too), so there was plenty of opportunity to shoot at different locations. Moving across the river provided some alternative views of the lift. Meanwhile, the weather was continuing to improve until it was actually sunny. Sadly, the lifting location was always in shade but you can’t have everything. Watching the downwash blow the snow around both on the ground and on the roof was quite amusing.
One of the parts of the city that most tourists never get to see is Lower Wacker Drive. Wacker Drive is the road that runs around the Loop along the line of the river. It is on two levels with Upper Wacker being normal street level and Lower Wacker sits directly beneath it. Half of Lower Wacker was rebuilt before we moved to the city but the other half was in an unrestored state for many years. If you watched the first of the Christian Bale Batman movies, you will have seen Lower Wacker in all of its darkness. (Go further back and the Blues Brothers movie also provided a tour of this area in the final car chase.)
I like Lower Wacker as it provides a bypass to get to the Eisenhower Expressway while avoiding the worst of the traffic – at least it did. Then they closed it for a progressive rebuilding program. This has been going on for a couple of years and is now about to be concluded. I have not been paying a lot of attention to the rebuild but I have taken a look whenever I have been passing by. The work has been a rolling program gradually moving down the length of the road. A section has been closed off while everything was diverted around it. Then the whole process would shift a few blocks further south. When I was up on the top of the Sears, I had a great view of the bottom of the drive from above. It was clear that everything was nearly done. Now I get to wait until I first can drive the new road. I have heard they have calmed the traffic flow down there which is probably a good idea but a little disappointing!