26 April 2013

The tale of the helicopters; part 2!

If you read our blog last week (the tale of the helicopter, part 1) you will know that the upland team have been growing in excitement for the arrival of our helicopter.  Well arrive it did and boy would we have been excited!  Only something else arrived at the same time... high winds, poor visibility and rain.  Not the best combination for flying stone attached to a helicopter up into the fells.  It was even more frustrating as the lift up at Blea Tarn was going to be filmed by ITV as part of a new series on the National Trust to come to your screens later in the year!  Despite the inclement weather we still did plenty of filming with the crew.  We took them to some of the paths around Blea Tarn and showed them what we do and the issues we are faced with in the uplands.  Hopefully they got some good footage and we'll not have embarrased ourselves too much!

Ian talking to the film crew about path erosion
Finally come Friday the forecast had improved enough for the helicopter to get off the ground and move some stone, so it was all systems go, for us that meant we had just a few hours to try and get all the stone lifted at Blea Tarn before the helicopter had to go out west and lift stone onto Yewbarrow.

Can you spot the ground crew and all the bags to be moved?!
Because time was tight, 3 of us were lucky enough to have hitched a ride from the valley bottom up to Blea tarn.  Although it only lasted just over a minute it was fabulous to see the fells from a different perspective.  From this point though it was all down to the pilot and his ground crew, our jobs were merely crowd control to ensure the pilot had as easy a job as possible, thankfully it was pretty quiet!  Supervisor Ian however, also played a key role as he was the man the pilot was aiming at for dropping the stone.  I'm not sure whether it would be a scary or thrilling place to be, but the pilot had a good aim and Ian is pretty experienced so it all went without problems.

Ian in the yellow jacket directing in the stone, with the ITV film crew in the back ground!
At the other end of the lift, the ground crew has to attach the bags of stone to the helicopter one by one.  This means that as the pilot comes into the load site he just has the ground crew's hand to aim at, into which he will fly the chain that is attached to the underside of the helicopter.

Pilot guiding in the chain with just a hand to aim at
The ground crew then threads the strap through all 4 loops of the heli-bags filled with stone and hooks it onto the chain.  With a thumbs up the ground crew heads to find the next bag while the pilot wheels away to the drop off site, where he will release the bag once he is happy with the placement.

Ground crew off to find next bag, pilot off to drop off site.  Can you spot the mirror the pilot uses to help him see?
It's amazing to watch this all happen, especially as it is all so seemless!  Whilst on crowd control there are normally plenty of people to talk to who are pretty interested to hear what's going on and why we use helicopters.  We do however have to remind them that it's not every week we get a ride in a helicopter and our normal mode of transport is our very own feet.  Still when we can we all enjoy the opportunity to get a ride and we normally end up with lots of photos!

Langdale pikes
Looking up Tongue Ghyll
Allan Bank and Helm Crag
All in all it's been an exciting week and because of the weather we're looking forward to the helicopter returning later in the month to finish the jobs that we couldn't fit in this week.  If you want to keep up with what happens and what else the team gets up to then please follow us on twitter  @NTlakesfells, where we can we try and update daily!

  By Sarah Anderson (Upland Ranger)


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