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Taking to the Sky to Deliver a 64,000 Pound Generator

It was a surprising sight for anyone strolling in the vicinity of Boston’s Beacon Hill on a Saturday morning in mid-May: a specially-designed 72-foot helicopter touching down at the Frog Pond on Boston Common (drained at the time), and then lifting enormous pieces of machinery into the sky above the gold-plated Massachusetts State House dome.

The challenging feat was coordinated by Holliston, Massachusetts-based Colantonio, an AGC of Massachusetts member, in order to place an enormous back-up generator on the rooftop of the McCormack Building, a 22-story structure atop Beacon Hill, just steps from the State House.

Colantonio Helicopter Lift – Team Assembles on Boston Common

The new generator, a Caterpillar 3512C, was a behemoth, weighing more than 64,000 pounds. Typically, heavy equipment like this would be lifted by a crane. But the building’s location, with steep hills on three sides and underground utilities and a subway line on the fourth, made the conventional approach impossible. So Colantonio’s team contacted Oregon-based Helicopter Transport Services (HTS), one of only two companies in the United States that offer helicopters powerful enough to lift such heavy items.

But long before the helicopter arrived in Boston, Colantonio had a lot of work to do. First, because the McCormack Building is so close to the State House, it’s in a no-fly zone, and special permission had to be granted from the FAA. Nearby roads would need to be closed, neighbors notified, and 240,000 square-feet of Boston Common had to be blocked off for safety. The many statues in the area were draped with protective covering. Police details were scheduled, and traffic control personnel were hired. Most importantly, all project partners, including Milton CAT (a member of multiple AGC chapters), LeVangie Electric, Steelco, Fair Lift, MARR Crane & Rigging, and HTS, were engaged in early and open communication and collaboration to ensure that every facet of the plan was addressed and that everyone involved was on the same page.

Colantonio Helicopter Lift – Above Massachusetts State House Dome

For safety, the day of the lift had to be sunny and dry. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and the team gathered on Boston Common early in the morning of Saturday, May 14. At the Boston Common Frog Pond, the generator was carefully dismantled into eight manageable pieces – the heaviest weighing 14,000 pounds. Team members connected each section, in predetermined sequence, to cables at spots that had been identified based on each piece’s center-of-gravity, as chopper-generated winds whipped leaves and pollen into the air. Once airborne, each secured piece of machinery traveled through the sky above historic brownstones and civic buildings before being delicately lowered onto the McCormack Building rooftop, where team members carefully reassembled them, connecting individual pieces to the whole while they were still hooked to cables, attached to the hovering helicopter.

It was an intense morning (that followed a sleepless night for many team members), but ultimately, careful planning and a united team brought a successful outcome and a working back-up rooftop generator for the client.