Evolution of Helicopter Trailers
Helicopter Trailers for Road Transportation
The technology and equipment used for transporting a helicopter on the road has improved dramatically over the years. Helicopter trailers have made it possible to transport your aircraft safely and efficiently over large distances.
The first operational helicopter was the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 in 1936, however it wasn’t until Igor Sikorsky came out with his new design that the first helicopter reached full-scale production in 1942. Helicopters were first used by the military in the Korean War. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that companies began using helicopters for commercial purposes.
Helicopter technology is relatively new still, even with the major advances we have seen over the past 50 years. It will be interesting to see what new innovations are brought to market over the next decade.
Since the value of an aircraft which could take-off vertically and hover at a constant altitude was first realized, there has been a need to transport these amazing machines when they are not flying. Just like the helicopters themselves, the technology used to transport these aircraft has improved over the years.
In the beginning, it started with operators transporting the helicopters themselves on open deck utility trailers hooked up to a pickup truck. Some operators still use this method for short distances, however the industry has realized the risk of transporting a valuable aircraft on a small open-deck trailer over longer distances. In addition to road debris, aircraft were subject to an increased risk from other vehicles on the road, theft and vandalism.
Professional cargo carriers soon got involved and brought more robust equipment and professional drivers to the table. However, there was still a lack of experience and training on how to properly handle an aircraft on your trailer. Drivers would treat it like any other cargo, try not to damage it and deliver it on time.
Carriers soon introduced shrink wrapping as the preferred method for shipping helicopters, it is an effective method of protecting the aircraft during transport. This method is still used today and is especially useful when a helicopter is being transported overseas by ship or aircraft. However, shrink wrapping is expensive and time consuming. Especially if you are shipping within North America.
Retractable tarp trailers have been used for a number of years to protect valuable cargo and for easier loading and offloading. However using these trailers to transport helicopters is a new innovation.
IMT was the first dedicated helicopter transport company in Canada to use retractable tarp trailers to transport a helicopter 5 years ago. Since then it has become the standard in the small world of dedicated helicopter transportation carriers in North America.
Since our first use of these trailers IMT realized the benefits of having a helicopter completely enclosed, protected from the elements and hidden from public view. IMT does not advertise on our trailers and it is impossible for the average motorist to tell what we are carrying. There is also the added benefit of saving time and money with no shrink wrapping.
Once the retractable tarp trailer was decided as the preferred option, IMT set out to design a custom Helicopter Trailer.
By enlisting the services of our in-house AME (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer) IMT designed its purpose-built Helicopter Trailer, with accessory components for landing gear, rotor blades and other aircraft components. We currently have two versions of this trailer, step-deck and a double-drop low-bed version.
These trailers feature cradles for the landing gear, ensuring that there is zero stress on sensitive components and nothing touches the helicopter except for the landing gear secured to the deck.
The low-bed version of our Helicopter Trailer is capable of transporting a Bell 412 without removing the mast a rotor assembly. Simply remove the blades and the aircraft is ready for transport.
Staying ahead of the curve has enabled IMT to be at the forefront of this exciting niche market of helicopter ground transportation, the only way we will stay there is through continuous improvement of our processes, equipment and personnel.
The technology for both helicopters and helicopter ground transportation has come a long way in a short period of time. We now have specially trained drivers and custom-built Helicopter Trailers to minimize the risk of transporting a helicopter on the road. It will be interesting and exciting to see how current technology will be improved in the short and long-term.
The Helicopter Industry has come a long way in its short lifetime and the next decade should bring even more innovation to this growing industry.