If you look at pictures of deployed aircraft maintenance shelters they have lifting gantries that can support major components like engines. Obviously for an engine change on a Chinook you can’t just get a few hands on, mechanical assistance is needed.
The lighter shade hangars don’t have lifting structures but the maintenance types do.
The ones the UK uses are mostly from Rubb Military Buildings and called the Expeditionary Forces Aircraft Shelter System or EFASS. EFASS is available in a number of widths, can be fitted with two different door types and a range of accessories.
Depending on the shelter they can also be fitted with a gantry hoist from Erikklia with a safe working lift of between 1,000kg and 2,000kg.
The brochure has loads of details…
They even come packed in an ISO container, back of the net!
Yet another successful UK defence company with innovative products that we should be shouting from the rooftops about!
So, on to helicopter maintenance…
In this story from the MoD, the challenges of maintaining helicopters in Afghanistan are described.
As daytime temperatures soar towards 50 degrees Celsius in the shade in Afghanistan the heat is on for the engineers who keep the fleet of helicopters in the air.
The tri-Service Joint Aviation Group provides rotary wing support to British and coalition forces. At Camp Bastion in Helmand province RAF Chinook and Merlin crews operate alongside colleagues from the Army Air Corps and the Fleet Air Arm flying Apache, Lynx and Sea King helicopters.
Talking about the Merlin HC3’s one of the ground crew stated
The aircraft isn’t specifically designed to operate in these extreme temperatures, which brings with it a whole host of engineering challenges which we don’t see in the UK.
For example the engines require cleaning regularly, which requires more manpower, and our other equipment can also overheat very quickly in the height of summer
These helos were primarily designed for the North Sea environment and the vast amount of avionics equipment fitted does get to a phenomenal temperature out here
The Merlin is equipped with a complex avionics suite which generates a lot of heat when in use. Couple that with the extreme temperatures and dusty environment here and the kit gets very hot
The air conditioning in the shelter is self-evidently very important.
As an aside, this also brings into sharp relief the issues the Merlin has in environments that are hot and dusty, would be interesting to compare the maintenance effort with other helicopters in the same environment but I digress.
Where there is a need to do a spot of heavy lifting on an aircraft that is not in the controlled environment with a flat and hard ground surface a problem arises. Cranes in theatre are in short supply and not immediately available so there is a requirement for a lightweight crane that can be used away from the shelters or as a complimentary capability.
Enter stage left the amazing Unic Spider Crane.
Unic spider cranes are Japanese but are distributed in Europe by GGR Group
The RAF had seen just how versatile the Unic cranes are on a project to install a memorial to Bomber Command on Beachy Head the MoD placed an order for a small fleet to support operations in Afghanistan.
The models ordered were URW-276’s, each able to lift 2.9 tonnes at 2.5m span.
Although the crane weighs 4 tonnes it can be split into multiple loads and beyond the obvious colour change they have been fitted with controls to dim lights and turn off warning buzzers and extra lighting.
So why happy days for Paul G?
Back in 2011 one of our regular commenters and ex REME chaps, PaulG, said this
I suggested this crane for helicopter services but as i was in my last 6 months I think it went into file 13, but it’s awesome fits through a normal house door!
I think that is called vindication mate!
To see just how versatile these cranes are have a look at these pictures of one sitting on top of the Shard in London