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HOVR Aviation

Helicopters save time and money on construction sites

A distant pulsing noise can be heard across the lake as two specks appear on the far shore. The noise becomes louder as they get closer, and it’s soon clear that it’s a helicopter with something hanging below it on a long cable.

“Here it comes. Everyone ready?” the foreman calls out, and there’s a bustle of movement among the construction workers. Within moments, the helicopter is directly overhead, visible through a tiny opening in the trees. The load beneath it is revealed to be nearly a ton of plywood sheets.

The foreman picks up a radio and guides the pilot as he lowers his burden to the ground, threading the needle of overhanging tree limbs and placing it precisely on the landing spot. The waiting crew uncouple the straps, the foreman gives the all-clear, and the helicopter rises and heads across the lake to get another load.

It’s all taken a matter of moments. Over the next 20 minutes, the helicopter will repeat the trip several more times, moving around 20,000 pounds of lumber in that time, and bringing the materials that will keep this construction site humming along for weeks.

There was a time when using a helicopter to build a cottage seemed, well, extravagant. But those days are long gone, says Jay McMackin, head pilot of HOVR Aviation.

“Helicopters have always been a faster way to move materials, but it’s taken some builders time to realize just how much more cost effective it can be,” he says. “There’s this perception that bringing in a helicopter is a bit over-the-top, but on most cottage job sites, that’s just not the case.”

As every building contractor in cottage country knows, the logistics of getting materials to the job site can be one of the biggest challenges of the job.

“You think of the typical cottage road – narrow, winding, steep,” says Jay. “Now imagine driving a flatbed truck full of materials down that road, coordinating it with five other trucks that are all coming that same day, all of them working around pickup trucks and cars and neighbours trying to use the road. It gets out of control really quickly.”

Precision delivery
With a helicopter, the delivery truck can park miles away, even on the other side of the lake. The helicopter brings materials in and places them on the job site, exactly where they’ll be needed.

That last part is often a key benefit, Jay says. “Most of the sites being built on now have incredibly steep slopes. The cottage might be on the ridge, but the boathouse is 200 feet down.”

“We’ve seen flatbeds backing down while hitched to an excavator so they don’t go straight off the edge. Or you see highly paid carpenters hand-bombing materials from the flatbed into pickup trucks so they can drive them down to the build site. Those costs add up very quickly.” Roofing materials can even be placed directly on the rooftop.

Use The Claw
Moving construction materials is just one of the many ways helicopters are being used in cottage country. A recent addition to the fleet is The HOVR Claw. “This is a game changer for some of our work,” says Jay.

Looking like a more sophisticated version of the classic Crane Game from arcades (and playfully nicknamed after a scene in the movie Toy Story), the HOVR Claw is designed to grab logs and similar materials in a single movement, holding them securely and moving them out of the way.

Jay and his crew use it for a range of projects, including working with municipalities and railways to remove remote beaver dams that threaten to wipe out rail lines or roads. “We can get in to the locations, remove the obstacle, and get out again in minutes,” Jay says. “It’s a game changer for those kinds of projects.”

Sharing the joy
It’s clear that Jay is someone who loves his job. Which is one reason he’s also keen to share it with others.

“We launched a flight school a few years ago, training future helicopter pilots,” he says.

Some of their students are beginners who just want to try flying for themselves and spend a few weekends on the ground and in the air, getting a taste for the joys of piloting. There’s no experience necessary, and no need to have any other kind of pilot’s license before learning to fly a helicopter.

Others have caught the same bug that Jay and his team have, and are pursuing their full license.

“It takes dedication, training, and practice to become a fully-licensed helicopter pilot,” says Jay. “But there truly is no better feeling than going up on a beautiful day.”



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