Choppers at work
B.C. pump company finds many uses for helicopters
By Colleen Cross
Who says installing pumps can’t look like Mission Impossible? From a young age, helicopters were a passion Mike Lamont was not ready to give up.
By thinking outside the box – or pump housing – Lamont used his passion and knowledge of these airborne workhorses to differentiate his pump service and supply business.
The affable owner of Precision Service & Pumps in Abbotsford, B.C., who is trained in helicopter mechanics and maintenance, recently shared with Ground Water Canada stories of how the company puts these beauties to work delivering and helping install pumps and equipment in remote areas of the province. Colleague and special projects manager Ron Nelson, who first put us on to the company’s adventures, joined us on the call.
“Helicopters help you get to remote places you couldn’t otherwise reach,” Nelson says. But it’s not all about location: in some cases, using a helicopter can save you precious time and, by extension, money. It also means freedom when you don’t have to wait until spring for the snow to melt, he says.
It’s a matter of using helicopters where it makes sense, Lamont says. “It’s not cheap, but sometimes it’s the right tool for the job,” Nelson adds.
The Precision team of some 25 staff specializing in municipal and industrial work in B.C., the Yukon, Alberta and overseas locations, has done about 20 projects over the years. The gallery below depicts some of the work done through the joint efforts of pump and helicopter crews (all photos courtesy Precision Service & Pumps).
The team contracts outside helicopter companies. “Different machines are right for different jobs, and the key is to fit the machine to the job,” Lamont says.
The company once used a helicopter to decommission a 200-foot water well hidden inside a hard-to-reach quad area of an Aldergrove high school. Once the parts, including pallets of bentonite on skids, were picked up and moved into place, the job didn’t take that long, Nelson says.
In another case, they pulled a pump and 20-foot lengths of pipe out of a customer’s 270-foot-deep well made virtually inaccessible by a swimming pool and an overhead loft. Using a chopper meant the difference between a customer having water the next day or waiting several days.
Nelson says a helicopter proved very useful on a job they did for a ski resort that gets its water from an extremely isolated lake on the other side of a mountain: “There is a submersible pump under the ice that transfers water to a chamber that has a large turbine pump installed to move the water over the mountain. The helicopter doesn’t just deliver the pump; it is used to thread the pump through the hatchway in the top of the pump house and into the wet well. The motor is then installed the same way. The hatchway has less than six inches of clearance on each side as it is put into place. It is a 400-horsepower, 4160 volt motor on 1,000 US gallons per minute at 1,200 feet TDH (total dynamic head) using 15-inch pump bowls.”
Lamont says he is happy to offer the benefit of his experience and invites anyone thinking of getting into this type of work to give him a call.
“Safety is always the biggest aspect,” he says. To this end, he recommends having all lifts with pumps and pipes ready in advance and cordoning off a huge emergency space. “Things can go bad really fast. You need a boat and a rescue boat. You need backup for everything.”
Liability for insurance is an important consideration. “When you hire a contractor, you are responsible for anything that happens while he or she is working for you,” he says. “Make sure your insurance contract covers this work.”
Done right, working with helicopters can be efficient and fun, Lamont says. “Helicopters are useful for a whole variety of tasks.”