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CAT Generator Lifted Above Beacon Hill with Helicopter

Reaching New Heights

In May, Milton CAT assisted Colantonio Inc., a Holliston, MA, based contracting management firm, in lifting and assembling a CAT 3512C 1750 kW generator on the John W. McCormack Building’s 22-story rooftop in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. Weighing 64,000 lbs., lifting the generator was no small feat and required months of intense planning and teamwork.

Prior to the generator project, Colantonio had done structural repairs and mechanical system updates for the McCormack Building which was built in 1975. In August of 2021, Colantonio was asked to oversee the installation of the generator to provide 100% redundancy for the existing CAT 3516B 1750kw standby generator that Milton CAT helped install 20 years earlier. “For a project of this magnitude, it was amazing for it to happen in a span of only nine months especially when we are faced with supply chain issues. The team’s strong communication helped to significantly fast track the project,” commented Milton CAT Power Systems New England Sales Manager Mike Gilbert.

To get it on top of the roof, the generator had to be broken down into eight sections and required a specialty helicopter with heavy-duty rigging to lift the segments 500 ft. in the air. The heaviest component weighed 14,000 lbs. Milton CAT assisted with the breakdown and reassembly of the generator. “The generator is designed to be delivered in one package so information on how to break it down is not readily available. Our team had to dive deep into the technical components of the generator and work closely with Caterpillar to properly break it down into eight pieces,” Cameron Murphy, Milton CAT power systems project manager, explained. “Breaking it down was only part of the equation though. We also had to have a safe and efficient procedure to reassemble the generator on the roof while it was hanging from a helicopter.”

A Sikorsky S65 Skycrane helicopter from Helicopter Transport Services in Oregon was used for the lift. Helicopter Transport Services is one of only two companies in the United States with a helicopter that can lift 20,000lbs. The 86 ft. long S65 helicopter has two engines and a 72 ft. long propeller. The helicopter was rigged with a 100 ft. cable by Marr Crane & Rigging of South Boston. Each generator section had hook points for the cables to attach to. Typically, generators are lifted onto buildings with cranes. However, the use of a crane was not possible as the weight of the generator would have required a tower crane. Building a tower crane would have required the closing of major Boston streets for many months and posed a risk to the underground utilities that connect to the subway.

Installing the generator via helicopter in a prominent area of Boston required Colantonio to work with numerous city and state departments including the Boston and State Police, the fire department, the transportation department, the parks department, the Beacon Hill Association, and the Federal Aviation Administration. A total of nine permits were required for the project.

Throughout the entire project, safety was at the forefront as the project posed significant risks. The safety plan was communicated and reenforced to the team often. The safety team did several site walkthroughs to plan the best course of action. The equipment including the helicopter and rigging was inspected numerous times.
Before the helicopter could take flight, the project area had to be prepped. Beacon Street and other cross streets were closed, and officers redirected traffic around the helicopter zone. The team had received a special FAA permit as the helicopter picked up the generator segments in front of the Massachusetts State House and flew them over the building which is in a no-fly zone. The top two floors of the State House had to be shut down during the flight. The numerous statutes and murals around the State House had to be covered to protect them from any debris that would be pushed up by the helicopter’s strong downdraft and a contractor had to take down their scaffolding in the area so it would not blow over.

A 240,000 sq. ft. area in the Boston Common near the Frog Pond was closed to act as a landing pad and refueling station. With loads of 15,000 lbs., fuel consumption was a concern. The helicopter could only fly for about an hour before needing to refuel so the team had to work as efficiently as possible. Everything went according to the plan and the helicopter only refueled once.

Set up began at 5:00 am on the day of the lift and the flight began around 8:00 am. As the helicopter pilot hoovered over the roof with the generator segments, the rooftop team firmly stood their ground under the intense downdraft and guided the swaying sections into place. All eight sections were up on the roof within six hours of initial set up. “Working with Milton CAT on this project was superior. From making sure it was taken apart right to putting it back together on the roof, Milton CAT was there through the entire project,” John Hobson, senior project manager at Colantonio, explained. After the entire generator was assembled on the roof, Milton CAT began the startup and commissioning of the generator which includes live testing. Milton CAT will also be supporting and servicing the generator throughout Caterpillar’s two-year warranty.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this project a success. Milton CAT is extremely proud to have been involved with such a monumental project. “The whole operation was a 110% success, and I can say that in full confidence,” John Hobson explained. “This project was a culmination of my 35 years in the industry. Our success cannot be contributed to any one individual. It took a whole team to make this project come together. Communicating constantly and getting everyone on the same page through multiple meetings is why we got the lift done properly within six hours and without any issues.”

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