We are often asked many questions about helicopter lifting, the how’s and the why’s so we have answered some of these below.

What is vertical reference flying?
Vertical reference flying is the ability to look out and down, rather than using the natural horizon that pilots have been taught from day one to use. It’s an unnatural way to fly a helicopter but gives greater accuracy when lifting loads and flying a long-line.

What is helicopter long-line lifting?
In helicopter lifting it is normal practice to use a fixed line attached to the belly hook of the helicopter. In long-line helicopter lifting the line is of such a length that it renders the use of mirrors impractical for the precise placement of the load being lifted. Generally anything longer then about 15m to 20m would be considered a long line.
Vertical reference long-line lifting is the safest and most precise method of load lifting by helicopter and is particularly important in congested urban environments. It reduces the downwash from the rotors and reduces the risk of obstructions to the helicopter rotors.

Can helicopters lift loads in busy UK city-centre locations?
Yes, subject to properly planned and executed safe systems of work for which permissions and exemptions need to be sought. The permitting authority is the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and flights need to be coordinated with the National Air Traffic Services (NATS).
Helicopters need to have twin-engines and are subject to the same restrictions as cranes with respect to the over-sailing of public infrastructure when lifting a slung load.

What weights can be lifted by helicopter?
Helicopter types can be classified by their lifting capacities approximately as follows:

  • Light up to 1,200kg
  • Medium up to 2,500kg
  • Heavy up to 5,000kg
  • Ultra-heavy up to 20,000kg

In the UK and Europe heavy-lift helicopters are commercially available for loads up to 5,000kg.

What are the benefits of helicopter lifting vs crane lifting?
Helicopters are often deployed for city lifting in order to reduce complexity, cost and disruption. Helicopters can lift loads quickly and efficiently without extensive road closures. Where building heights or lateral reach exceed the normal capabilities of cranes, helicopters are often the most practical solution. Streets can be too narrow to accommodate large cranes. Underground utilities or basements might limit the ground bearing capacity for heavy plant/equipment. Or routes might simply be too busy/important to be closed for the extended periods required for cranes.