Early Morning Whirlybird

Strangest of things. Yesterday, in my state, I left my portable drive at work. So far, I’ve done that maybe once… but I don’t even think that. Since I update this thing daily, I tend to have my drive with me at all times.

So… this morning, at 8:30 AM, I haul out of bed, throw on some shoes, and drive over to work. As I pull up to the Mart, I notice some police cars blocking off traffic in the distance. When I get out of the car, I hear a helicopter. Really close by. I investigated, and found this:

There was some work being done on a skyscraper, and the helicopter was transporting some pretty massive stonework all the way up there.

This was where I was, shortly after parking my car. I put my camera low to the ground, and was really happy with this image.

Closeup: roof work.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what, exactly, they were building. A tower? Repairing something? All I knew was that this thing was really close by.

I noticed my camera getting low on batteries, and decided to head into the Mart. I went to the Q101 office, got my drive, and on my way out… ran into one of the jocks. J Love was nice enough to give me some AA batteries for my camera, and once I reloaded… I was back out on the street, looking up at the sky.

Thanks J. I wouldn’t have been able to get these images if it wasn’t for your help.

Police were blocking traffic from crossing, corner of Wacker and Wells. See where that red Gatwood truck is? There were about four pieces of heavy stonework set up side by side, to the left of where that truck is. Basically, right behind the cop car on the left.

This is where the helicopter dipped down to do a pickup.

I got a hold of a worker and asked him the best place for me to go, where I could get a good view but also be within a "legal" distance. He pointed me to the corner of LaSalle and Wacker, and I headed over.

Actually, I ran over. As I was halfway across, the helicopter started to come in low. I ended up doing this backpedal thing where I was trying to get back but take photos at the same time.

This was crazy to film. You’ll notice the camera get really shaky when the helicopter gets close to the ground. What’s even nuttier is that the blades show up as really really slow, as my camera can’t keep up as far as framerate goes. So the thing looks like it’s hovering.

Luckily though, the worker guy on the right should be a nice frame of reference, and his jacket should give you an idea of how much wind was being kicked up.

A ground worker waitied until the helicopter got low, grabbed the support rope, and attached it to the stonework.

This is Bill. :)

We both were standing next to each other, and fell to talking. Bill is a pilot for United, and told me he was staying at the hotel up the road. When he heard the helicopter, he ran down to see.

According to Bill, this helicopter is a Sikorsky CH34, converted. Twin turbine (twin pack), with a PT6 engine. He mentioned something about them being used in Vietnam.

Bill was really enthusiastic, and great to talk to. Very knowledgeable, and very kind. I offered to give him this url, but he declined, citing he wasn’t good with computers. But he was kind enough to let me take his picture, and give me permission to post it.

That’s the Merchandise Mart (where I work) on the right there.

Each time it went up, I kept thinking "Geez, please don’t break. Please don’t break."

The support rope, after it was detached from the chopper. One of the guys I asked told me this thing can support up to 40,000 lbs. before snapping. But according to him, they never even get close to that number – typically it’s five or six thousand pounds.

By the time I look up from my camera, Bill is nowhere to be found. I looked all around, and he pulled a Kaizer Soze on me. Ah well, I wish I had the chance to tell him thanks for the information, and for letting me take his photo.

Wherever you are Bill, it was nice meeting you!

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