Erickson Helps CN Tower Achieve New Heights

How do you make a super tall structure even taller? Call Erickson!

By Scott Zurschmit, VP of Business Capture

On April 2, 1975, Toronto’s citizens gazed up in amazement as Erickson’s S-64 Air Crane® helicopter completed the CN Tower by placing the final piece of the tower’s antenna, officially making it the world’s tallest building, as mentioned in Vertical Magazine. At a little over 1,815 feet (555 meters), the CN Tower held the record for tallest building until 2007 when the United Arab Emirates building Burj Khalifa surpassed that height during its construction. Construction on the CN Tower began on February 6, 1973 and took about 40 months to complete.

Over 1,500 workers toiled five days a week, 24 hours a day for more than three years to complete the tower. Still, in the end, it took mighty “Olga” (N6962R), the S-64 Erickson Air Crane® helicopter, and a determined crew to complete this engineering marvel and capture the record unseating the Soviet Union’s Ostankino communications tower.

A time crunch near the completion of the project presented a challenge to the builders, which led to the decision to bring in the Air Crane® helicopter. To get the job done, “Olga” had first to remove the internal crane that was used at the time. Next, Olga lifted 39 steel cans to assemble 311 feet (95 meters) of the antenna mast, placing each section perfectly in place so that construction crews could fasten the cans together. The largest steel can weighed-in at almost eight (seven metric) tons! To top off the tower, Olga lifted the final 30-foot (nine meters) antenna into place. Thirty days, 56 flights, 30,000 bolts, and a mere $230,000 USD later – (just over $1M today) – the “Maple Leaf, or l’Unifolié,” was ceremoniously flown at the top of the tower. By utilizing the Air Crane® helicopter, they shaved five months off the project timeline.

How do they do it?

Heavy precision lift flying of this type takes highly experienced pilots with thousands of hours on the aircraft working with maintenance and ground crews who are experts at configuring loads and keeping the aircraft flying. Using only our most experienced pilots in our aft-facing pilot station allows max visibility to the target area.  It has hand controls to place the piece within inches – the crew places the lift precisely where needed.

In 2006, Toronto visitors and residents were treated to a two-minute reenactment when Erickson sent an Air-Crane® helicopter to hover over the top of the Tower at 6:45 pm on Sunday, June 25, 2006, the moment the Tower antenna was topped off over 30 years prior, making it the World’s Tallest Building. After the reenactment, Erickson crews landed nearby and chatted with visitors.