This Boeing image by Joe Naujokas shows the SkyHook Heavy Lift Vehicle

Boeing, SkyHook Finalize Configuration of VTOL Aircraft

The U.S. aircraft manufacturer and its Canadian partner have reached the configuration freeze milestone for a vehicle they say will "radically change the way [customers] resupply and operate in remote regions, especially the north."

Oil and gas, mining, and other operations conducted in remote regions all over the world are potential customers for the SkyHook Heavy Lift Vehicle, which has reached the configuration freeze milestone, meaning its overall performance and layout have been established, Boeing announced July 28. The next major milestone for the VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft, which will be able to carry 40 tons of cargo a distance of 200 miles without refueling, is Detailed Design in 2011, according to Boeing.

National Transportation Safety Board Member Deborah A.P. HersmanSeparately, on July 28, Deborah A.P. Hersman was sworn in as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and NTSB announced its finding that the probable cause of the March 2008 crash of a Cessna 500 in Oklahoma City, Okla., was wing damage caused by its impact with at least one American white pelican. "While the Board has determined that it was the bird strike that brought down this airplane, this investigation also uncovered improper and noncompliant charter operations that should have been identified and discontinued by the FAA," Mark V. Rosenker, who has announced his departure as acting chairman, said in the board's statement. Two pilots and three passengers died when the Cessna crashed two minutes after takeoff from Wiley Post Airport on the afternoon of March 4, 2008. NTSB urged the FAA to consider requiring stronger airframes to withstand bird strikes and said FAA should enforce wildlife hazard assessment requirements for airports located near wildlife attractants.

The SkyHook HLV needs no runway because it takes off and lands vertically. "The SkyHook HLV technology is like nothing that has ever existed. We anticipate that the operational capability of this aircraft will allow SkyHook's customers to radically change the way they resupply and operate in remote regions, especially the north," said Rob Mayfield, director of Calgary-based SkyHook International Inc. "In the oil and gas industry, there are significant pressures on cost, speed, safety, and environmental impact, and the SkyHook HLV represents solutions to each of these challenges in various applications." Oil exploration and mining in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, South America, Europe, and Africa are potential customers, the partners have said.

Boeing is designing and will build a production SkyHook HLV prototype at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa., with the first flight expected in 2014 after the aircraft is certified by Transport Canada and the FAA.

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