AN INTERVIEW WITH THE GENERAL MANAGER OF AVIBEX - WOJCIECH MASEWICZ
Q. How did the idea for such an unusual type of service as using a helicopter for rigging work come about?
Using a helicopter for rigging and assembly work has been my passion from very early in my professional career. In the 1980s, these types of jobs were carried out by Instal out of Nasielsk, and when they disbanded, Przedsiebiorstwo Usług Lotniczych Aeropol (Aerial Services Enterprise) in Warsaw got involved in similar types of services. Working with those companies, I gained increasingly more experience in this type of construction work, and in the mid-eighties, I made the decision to go it alone. That's how AVIBEX came into being.
Q. During helicopter rigging, the tight operation of the entire AVIBEX team as well as the speed and the effectiveness of what they do are stunning. How did you recruit and train your personnel?
The employees working for my company have for the most part caught the "bug" of aerial crane rigging. As a result, I can fairly say, I have a team of people that are reliable, and they simply like what they do. Some of the staff have been with us for well over ten years. I employ experienced pilots who act as a bonder, bringing together the riggers and the helicopter crew. On-the-job training of an employee takes a minimum 2 years. The people who work in this business have to have the right mental and physical skills. Each person has to be trained to instinctly react to the signs being given by the riggers or other personnel. This type of work is highly error-intolerant. The consequences of being unprepared are impossible to quantify. The helicopter is an aerial crane, but the way it operates is so specialized and the conditions it operates in are so different from normal, that any carelessness is inadmissible. Developers often don't realize that the recruitment of inexperienced riggers set to work with a previously unknown and unproven helicopter crew, may result in a complete failure of the project, and may endanger life and equipment. Prior to any rigging and assembly work, the personnel take part in a "brainstorming" session, because it's not like any one of us is always right. This type of teamwork really does bring about excellent results. Putting together a number of such different professions (from a helicopter pilot to a welder), with varying experiences and educational levels results in the generation of a completely new rigging project. The frequent use of helicopters has effectively prevented our work from becoming routine and mundane, and the level of commitment and satisfaction we feel when putting up any structure is the.
Q. It's common opinion that helicopter rigging work is very expensive and so is only used as a last resort. Is it difficult to convince the Clients that this should be used?
A helicopter is a highly effective construction machine. Its used whenever there is a necessity of building roads, clearing, preservation of national parks etc, and when doing rigging work at industrial plants or in large cities - the use of a helicopter in all those instances dramatically reduces the project timings and cuts down the overhead costs. If the Client's geared toward receiving quality and short project delivery deadlines, we are the natural choice. In many instances, the use of a helicopter means savings of manpower normally used during transport and preparatory work and allows to avoid additional overheads. All in all, the index of a per-unit cost for any project carried out with the use of a helicopter cannot be the only point of reference when compared to the results generated with the use of traditional construction and rigging methods.
Q. Is rigging and assembly work with the use of a helicopter more dangerous?
This type of rigging work involves a great deal of discipline, teamwork, the ability to work together. Rigging is a high-risk operation, both risk of the structural work and safety of the staff. That is why, the success of each operation, depends on the training and a good level of internal organization. It all means the time of the helicopter hovering with its payload has to be reduced down to the minimum. Although the actual rigging work seems to take little time - in the range of a few minutes - many days of preparations are needed to achieve such an effect. This will also depend on the appropriate and well implemented system of navigation and homing of the helicopter on the specific target location, creating appropriate reference points for the helicopter pilot so that he can adjust the machine's position by e.g. 10cm. Whether an operation is successful, depends on multiple factors, such as the level of preparation, pilot training, deck technician training, flight directors, the expertise of the on-the-ground team, radio communications and of course on independent factors, such as the weather, and above all the direction of the winds.