An Erickson S-64 Skycrane was spotted above Maple ridge on Wednesday, Oct. 6. (Dustin Kvammen/Special to The News)

An Erickson S-64 Skycrane was spotted above Maple ridge on Wednesday, Oct. 6. (Dustin Kvammen/Special to The News)

Erickson S-64 helicopter spotted over Maple Ridge

Photographer who spotted it explained it’s a rare helicopter

A photographer in Maple Ridge was delighted to capture more than just eagles Wednesday afternoon when he heard a noise and identified a specialized helicopter flying overhead.

Dustin Kvammen was taking photos of eagles on Oct. 6, in the area of Dewdney Trunk Road and 232 Street, when, all of a sudden the eagles took off.

“I could hear what I thought was thunder in the distance, then to my surprise it was the Sikorsky-Erickson Skycrane,” explained Kvammen.

“It’s a pretty rare helicopter,” he noted adding that he first saw them as a young child lifting transmission towers in Port Moody . He explained they are used for many thing from firefighting to lifting heavy equipment.

Actually, explained Bob Hawthorne, chief pilot at Canadian Air-Crane Ltd. in Delta, that operates the helicopter Kvammen saw, there are about only 27 of them operational in the world.

Hawthorne has been flying the aircraft for 29 years.

He said they are a rare aircraft as in they do not carry any passengers. Only a pilot and co-pilot.

Under the Sikorsky name, the S-64 Skycrane operated during the Vietnam war where they were used to lift heavy artiliry and lift out aircraft that had crashed in the jungles of Vietnam.

Erickson Air-Crane purchased the manufacturing rights from Sikorsky Aircraft in 1992.

Now the aircraft are used mostly for fighting fires, construction, and aerial harvesting.

Canadian Air-Crane has three in their fleet, with one currently operational.

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This year, said Hawthorne, the S-64 E model was busy with the wildfires across the province. Fire tanks are bolted to the belly of the aircraft that allow them to suck up about 2,000 gallons or a little more than 9,000 litres of water from a river or the ocean.

When it was spotted overhead in Maple Ridge the helicopter had just finished a selective heli-logging job along Harrison Lake and was on its way up the coast to Port Hardy for more selective logging. Next week, Hawthorne said, it will be leaving for Saskatchewan to lift heavy equipment to a dam site.

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The S-64 E model can lift up to about 9,000 kilograms or 20,000 pounds.

In their fleet they also have a S-64F model that can haul more than 11,000 kgs or 25,000 pounds.

“Just a little more horsepower,” noted Hawthorne.

And, he added, one of the unique aspects of this helicopter is that it is the only aircraft with an aft, or rear-facing seat in the cockpit so the pilot can face the load and perform precision work with the aircraft.

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