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Ramp Appeal: Workhorse

The Air Crane is an ungainly beast

Helicopters might be fun to fly, but as Igor Sikorsky was fond of noting, they are primarily built to work.
Ramp Appeal

Perhaps with no flying machine is that more obvious than the Erickson Air Crane. Practically nothing more than two powerful engines, massive main rotor blades, a cockpit, and a sturdy cargo hook, the Air Crane is the pinnacle of heavy lift helicopters.

Anyone who’s flown a Cessna 172 knows how little weight small airplanes can carry. Even the mighty Boeing 747 freighter can only carry a third of its weight in cargo, which ultimately is not too far removed from the Skyhawk. The Air Crane can lift an Air Crane.

With two Pratt & Whitney JFTD12-4A engines spinning main rotor blades with a 72-foot diameter and a tail rotor with a 16-foot diameter, the Air Crane can lift up to 25,000 pounds externally. Its maximum gross weight is 47,000 pounds, and empty weight is around 20,000 pounds.

Originally developed and manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft, the Air Crane is currently manufactured and supported by Erickson, which recently obtained certification for composite main rotor blades. This achievement will unlock many more decades of firefighting, powerline construction, and logging for this 60-plus-year-old giant.

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Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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