Pretty cool: Helicopters deliver massive air conditioning units to roofs of 2 Virginia high schools

Helicopter installs new air conditioners on roof of Virginia high school

With temperatures nearing 100 degrees, a helicopter hoisted gargantuan air conditioning units to the roofs of two Loudoun County, Virginia, high schools on Tuesday.

The first delivery was at Freedom High School, in South Riding. The school community had been informed that the school building and property would be closed during the procedure.

Why a helicopter?

“It’s lifting our two air handlers up onto the building, to accommodate new AC units,” said Mike Grice, an onsite supervisor with Gilbane Building Company, who estimated the units weigh between 700 and 1,200 pounds. “The placement is harder for a crane to stretch out” to the proper roof location, he said.

Another supervisor said the positioning and bolstering of cranes could take several days — far longer than the helicopter delivery method.

With heavy-duty cables and straps, the helicopter lowers the units into place on the roof.

“We make a new curb — the curb sits about a foot off the floor,” said Grice, and the helicopter “sets it right on top of the curb, with hollow insides — the ducts run underneath, through the curb, into the inside of the building, and they hook their ductwork in.”

About an hour later, the helicopter arrived at John Champe High School, to lift a pair of air handlers from the parking lot in front of the school, and carefully carry the pendulous load a few hundred feet.

The helicopter pilot had his head out the window, looking down, as he positioned the unwieldy metal mammoths on the the readied settings.

Within 30 minutes, the units were safely in place on the Champe roof.

“The new units were needed due to construction changes to the school,” said Dan Adams, public information officer with Loudoun County Public Schools. “Using a helicopter is actually cheaper than using a crane, as LCPS always strives to be responsible stewards of our financial resources.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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