Friday, 30 April 2010

The Helicopters Have Landed!

Photo by Adam White

Yesterday saw a landmark achievement in the creation of the new playscape, as helicopters came to the park to help install our giant play towers.

The 9m and 12m towers (equivalent to three double decker buses on top of one another!), constructed by Timberplay are so large that they had to be constructed horizontally. With the playscape site being on such a steep slop surrounded by dry stone walls and mature trees, it would have been impossible to complete the installation by crane.

As a result, the project team embarked on a special project to install the towers by the only way possible - from the sky! Principle contractor Visible Changes, along with Timberplay, brought in fantastic pilots from British International to do the lifts.

British International bought a 24 seater Sikorsky helicopter up to Cheshire from Cornwall. Their team ensured all project staff were fully briefed for the task at hand, and the National Trust wardens worked with a team of fantastic volunteers to marshal the exclusion zone around Crow Wood and the car park tower construction area.

The lifts for the 9m towers were completed with relative ease. The weather was very poor which made life less than favourable for the marshals, but in actual fact the helicopter required windy conditions to achieve the required levels of uplift. Due to the weight of the towers, the helicopter had to be refuelled after each lift in order to keep on-board weight to a minimum.

The lifts for the two 12m towers proved slightly trickier as they were even heavier than the others. The sheer weight of the towers meant that they needed to be partially deconstructed to enable the helicopter to lift them up and carry them into place safely.

However, by 6pm all the towers were in place and the crew, contractors and marshals could have a well deserved cup of tea to warm up!

British International Helicopters Chief Pilot, Ron Walker, who lives near Penzance and carried out the mission, commented: “This was a pretty challenging task, with limited space, lots of trees, a delicate wooden playframe and the need to fly close to listed buildings and structures. But although this was mission difficult, it certainly wasn’t mission impossible.”

“Flying to the Isles of Scilly each day means I’m pretty spoilt and used to breathtaking views, but to fly in to the impressive, oversized, surroundings of Lyme Park was stunning. This was just the sort of mission our helicopters thrive in. Whether it’s ensuring the safety of giant play equipment, or the comfort of passengers to the Isles of Scilly, the Sikorskys are amazingly delicate and responsive.”

British International's Sikorsky S61, which usually operates between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly, can carry up to three tonnes or 24 passsengers plus luggage. The 18 metre long, twin-engined helicopter can travel at speed of up to 166 miles an hour - although there was no call for this for our mission!

Check back for more photographs of the event and images of the new towers in situ!!!

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