Day in the Life of an IMT Driver

Ice Road Trucking

New Year’s Eve – 2008/09 (Murray Blackburn – 8 year IMT veteran)

In the first part of our mini-series “Day in the Life of an IMT Driver” we thought we would start with an interesting trip from our longtime company driver – Murray Blackburn.

Background

At the end of 2008 Vancouver had only its 6th white Christmas since 1947, and if it was snowing in Vancouver, you better believe it was snowing in BC’s interior and north. Especially for a place like Bell 2 Lodge, which receives an astounding 65-100 ft (yes that’s feet as in 12 inches) in snow per year.

For those unfamiliar with the amazing tourist destinations in BC’s north, Bell 2 Lodge is the base camp for Last Frontier Heliskiing. Located minutes from some of the finest powder in the world, helicopter transportation takes the place of chair lifts in the 3450 square mile skiing tenure that is Bell 2 Lodge.

The Job

A helicopter clipped the top of a tree with its blades and had to be sent out for maintenance. Even though it was a minor blade strike, Transportation Canada requires that the helicopter blades be re-certified by an accredited MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul facility). The plan was to meet an engineer in Bell 2 Lodge, prepare the helicopter for road transportation and then haul it to Vector Aerospace in Langley, BC.

However, when picking up a helicopter in adverse weather conditions in an extremely remote location, you usually have a few challenges to overcome.

To start, an AME (aircraft maintenance engineer) was due to fly out of Vancouver, B.C. and bring along a crane and other necessary securement equipment for wrapping a helicopter and certifying it for road-transportation. Due to the heavy snowfall that year, the engineer was delayed for several days.

Our driver plowed his way through massive snow drifts to arrive at the location, only to realize that he and a mechanic were stranded there with no equipment and a deadline looming. With all airports closed, it was time to improvise.

They started by raiding the kitchen, nearby shop and our company truck to obtain materials to weather protect the sensitive components of the aircraft. This included tarps, plastic bags, shrink wrap, tape and rope. At this point, pretty much anything plastic and waterproof was fair game.

Our driver and a mechanic began taping, tarping and securing the helicopter in preparation for road transportation. Even under adverse conditions with limited equipment, they still followed standard procedures for weather protecting a helicopter. Once finished they had another problem, how are they going to get the helicopter on the trailer without a crane?

First they had to position the helicopter outside the shop. They then dug a hole with the backhoe and lowered the end of the trailer into the hole, making the deck level with the ground. An ATV was used to pull the helicopter up onto the deck and into position.

Once the helicopter was secured to the deck, the engineer was able to fly in from Vancouver to inspect the cargo before transportation. Already aware of the improvisation happening in BC’s frigid north, he was needless to say skeptical of Murray’s improvised weather protection system.

When he arrived however, the engineer was more than impressed with how the helicopter was packaged and only requested a little more packing on the rear stabilizer before declaring it road-worthy.

Amazingly, Murray was able to deliver the bird on-time for scheduled maintenance on the rotor blades. He also got to spend some quality time with a curious little arctic fox, see our gallery below.

Just another day in the life of an IMT driver.