Heavy-lift Helos Critical To Gulf Restoration
Heavy-lift helicopters from private contractors and the military are continuing to play a critical role in restoring the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem in the wake of the BP oil spill. This month, Columbia Helicopters is flying a pair of Boeing Vertol 107-IIs equipped with brush grapples to remove sections of hard and soft boom that had been placed to protect estuaries from encroaching oil. The Vertols have been on site since May and were initially used to construct a 35-mile sandbag island to protect sensitive wetlands along the Louisiana coast. That effort included a pair of VIH Cougar Sikorsky S-61Ns, along with Black Hawks from the Florida, Illinois and Louisiana National Guard units. Guard units from Florida and Mississippi also contributed CH-47 Chinooks to the operation. BP has contracted for the private helicopters, but all helicopters in the region involved with the effort are operating under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Louisiana National Guard.