The Ground Handling Blog

Mototok's blog for Hangar Professionals

Written by Mototok on June 7, 2018 // 3:30 PM

Ground Handling of Helicopters Mounted on Skids


Helicopters are a wonderfully versatile aerial platform, capable of supporting a broad array missions from aerial ambulance, to aerial agricultural application of pesticides, to heavy lift and tower construction. While nimble and deft in the air, helicopters pose unique challenges to ground support personnel charged with ground handling of the aircraft.

The helicopter: agile in the air, clumsy on the ground

The use of landing gear with pneumatic tires is not terribly uncommon on modern helicopters, but they are generally used on medium and large helicopters exclusively where the ability to run up for takeoff is much more necessary than small helicopters. Those helicopters manufactured on fixed-wing style landing gears are able to be moved in ground handling much like their fixed wing cousins by the use of traditional tugs and tow vehicles. But skidded helicopters pose a unique challenge to operators: unless they are very light, the helicopters are too heavy to push out by hand on ‘dolly’ wheels, and these are inconvenient to start with in the event that you are in any sort of rush to move the aircraft.

Speaking of rushing, one of the most prolific uses of helicopters in the emergency response capacity, whether that be law enforcement or flying ambulance. In each case, time is a very important variable for emergency responders. Since helicopters are such sensitive vehicles to external forces, they are seldom kept outdoors and almost exclusively hangared, including those used in rapid response applications.

So, if a helicopter has skids and dolly wheels are inefficient then what other options are there? The most common method is an actual platform dolly, a sort of mobil helipad which is basically a flatbed trailer with manual brakes that the helicopter lands on, is stored on, and takes off from. The entire unit is then towed back into the hangar. This is, at the very least, cumbersome, and more likely risky. It affords that the pilot can takeoff and land on a mobile, wheeled fixture in all flyable weather conditions, and considering the nature of a towed dolly, it is going to be some distance off the ground.

This puts a tremendous amount of stress on the pilot to perform such a precise maneuver and on a routine basis, but also has some serious ramification. Consider an unexpected gust of wind catches the helicopter at the point of touching down but still retaining some lift. The skid lifts and drops off a side before the pilot can react causing the main rotor to strike. From there, you can certainly use your imagination as to the consequences.

A helicopter tug that gives your heli wings

But before we write this whole thing off as a loss, there is another option, a much better option. What if you could take off and land on the ground, and then move the aircraft in any direction, from the comfort of the cabin? Well, you can.

The Mototok Helimo is absolutely without rival in terms of flexibility, capability, and usability. There are no equipment loadings and attachments to the belly which would have any impact on the Helimo in the movement of the aircraft, and the Helimo is completely adjustable for any helicopter on skids. It makes no difference if the skids have flotation devices on them, either; the Helimo simply works around them.

We, as the manufacturer of Helimo, have long provided solutions for the fixed wing market to allow ground support personnel to move aircraft on the ground with incredible precision with the absolute minimum number of support personnel. The Helimo continues this vision by allowing the precise, perfectly controlled ground movement of your helicopter. Consider the two traditional methods of moving a skidded helicopter on the ground:

  1. Skid-attached dolly: on aircraft any larger than small, two-place trainers it will be almost impossible for a single person to move the aircraft in and out of the hangar by themselves. It is next to impossible to do this in a timely manner.
  2. Towed platform: where skid-mounted dollies are merely uneconomical and difficult to use, the towed platform poses actual risks. For one, if the aircraft is not secured to the platform it runs the real risk of coming off of the platform during ground movement. Attaching it to the platform is going to be time consuming and difficult, but totally necessary to safely and securely move the aircraft. Also, it is no longer a one-person task when the platform needs to be pulled by a tractor; the task will necessitate a spotter as well.

Helimo does away with the archaic design of a raised, towed platform. For one, the helicopter skids are securely clamped down to the Helimo outriggers automatically which is very quick and does away with human error.

Helimo is able to approach your helicopter in 8 different ways, allowing it to work for many different aircraft, and allowing you to attach to your aircraft with ever-changing missions and loadings depending on what sort of equipment is attached at any given time. If you service a fleet of helicopters, this one machine will work for all of them regardless of configuration and even aircraft type! You can seamlessly move from a Bell 407 to an Enstrom and on to a Hughes, Eurocopter, or whatever. It doesn’t make any difference what you are using, Helimo will handle it.

While not in use, the Helimo takes up no more room than the helicopter itself as it can easily be stowed underneath the helicopter. Unlike the clumsy wheeled platform, Helimo is neat and tidy and offers a low profile. It can then be driven out and used on another aircraft if necessary.

Since the remote control unit for Helimo is handheld, the operator can even get into the cockpit of the helicopter and ride along for extended taxiing. This is also a useful safety feature as it allows the operator to monitor a radio while taxiing through any high-noise environments.

Our helicopter tug is rated for all skidded helicopters up to 13,200 lbs (or 6 t), allowing operators the ability to adjust ground operations for all kinds of different aircraft and missions without having to purchase any additional equipment; the Helimo does it all in one neat package.

Conclusion to helicopter tugs for skidded helicopters

If you are tired of not being able to quickly get your aircraft out of the hangar and into action, and would rather not throw your back out pushing and pulling it on cheap, inferior skid dollies, then you should consider the Mototok Helimo as a vital piece of your ground support inventory. It will save your back, and it could save a life.
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