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Chopper does heavy lifting for M&T Bank

It had to be a record powerlift for the 400 block of Main Street: seven tons in seven easy snatches.

Don't try it at home, folks. Moving a backup generator to the roof of the 24-story bank tower at One M&T Plaza required more than great biceps.

It took a giant helicopter operated by a savvy pilot and a gang of workers on the ground and atop the building, working together like ballet dancers, to pull it off Saturday morning.

The culmination of a two-year, nearly $1 million plan to install backup power to M&T Bank headquarters was witnessed by hundreds of onlookers who shaded their eyes and craned their necks to follow the lifts from a city parking lot on Ellicott Street to the skyscraper a block away.

But it was a rather ho-hum event for Curt Braddock of Construction Helicopters in Ypsilanti, Mich., who was at the controls of the blue and white Sikorski Model 61.

"Just another day in paradise. It's a pretty straightforward job," he shrugged as he waited for crews to attach lift lines to an oversized radiator after lifting the heaviest piece, a 6,500-pound, 450-kilowatt Caterpillar motor that resembled a huge automobile engine, to a freshly installed concrete pad on the bank roof.

This may not be paradise, but it was a beautiful day for Braddock's line of work, with bright sunlight, no wind to speak of and temperatures edging into the 50s.

"We fly year-round," he said. "A lot of times it's harder to get to the job on the ground than to do the job."

Braddock said the work brings him to Western New York fairly often. He and his helicopter dropped in on the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga last month to move heating and air conditioning units to the roof of its newest addition.

Construction Helicopters owns several big Sikorski ships, which haven't been produced since the 1970s, and do most of the really heavy lifting -- up to 10,000 pounds at a time -- east of the Mississippi River.

The generator was made in Illinois, re-assembled at Milton CAT in the Town of Tonawanda and hauled downtown by Rusiniak's Service of Cheektowaga.

The lift was directed by State Group, a nationwide rigging contractor. George R. Schlemmer of Industrial Power & Lighting Corp., project general contractor, said the City of Buffalo, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps helped pull off the maneuver.


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