Chopper Spotter vs. HeliWagon

chopper spotter sitting below a helicopter in a hangar
Achieving safe and easy helicopter transport on the ground is an important task, especially considering the value of the aircraft. When moving a piece of machinery that can potentially cost millions of dollars, even minor damage during ground transport can result in extremely costly repairs. This makes finding a reliable and high-quality helicopter ground-handling solution a necessity for any owner or operator. There are a number of options to choose from on the market today, each with its own range of benefits, shortcomings, and means of operation. Among the most popular ground-handling solutions are Chopper Spotter and HeliWagon. Here is a closer look at the comparisons between the two in terms of functionality, maneuverability, safety, technology, and service.

How they work

The HeliWagon is essentially a moving platform the helicopter lands on in order to be transported on the ground. While the helicopter is in the air, the platform can be properly positioned via a wireless remote control (either by a passenger in the helicopter or by an on-the-ground operator). The pilot then lands the aircraft on the HeliWagon which can then be maneuvered on the ground via the wireless control. The Chopper Spotter comes into play once the helicopter is already safely on the ground. Here’s how it works. To connect, the unit rolls beneath the helicopter from the rear and the yokes are attached to the wheel attachment points on the skids. The operator then moves to the rear of the helicopter and uses the wireless remote control to raise and lower the aircraft and to move it forward and backward. While this is happening, the free hand takes hold of the helicopter’s tail and is used to steer. Once the helicopter is in its place, the control is used to lower the helicopter and the unit rolls out from beneath the aircraft.

Maneuverability

As mentioned, the HeliWagon platform can be moved and rotated up to 360 degrees via the wireless remote control. The unit features casters and drive wheels to help traverse minor changes in grade and to clear any low obstacles. The HeliWagon has a larger footprint than the Chopper Spotter and thus requires more storage space and is more cumbersome to handle on the ground. It features a lifting capacity of up to 8,000 pounds to handle light to mid-sized skidded helicopters. The Chopper Spotter is the most maneuverable helicopter transport unit on the market, pivoting up to 360 degrees on a dime via its drive wheel while lifting up to almost 12,000 pounds. This maneuverability and the compact footprint of the unit are especially helpful for smaller hangars, helping operators get their aircraft in and out neatly without suffering any damage. The Chopper Spotter can also be stored directly beneath the helicopter when not in use, saving space in and around the hangar for other needs and equipment.

Safety

The HeliWagon is designed to provide a stable and safe landing platform for light to mid-sized helicopters, providing 360-degree walkaround visibility on the ground and a deck surface coated with nonskid polyurethane resistant to fuels, hydraulic fluids, and other caustic chemicals. Still, the methodology of landing the helicopter on the platform leaves a much larger margin for error than the on-the-ground connection process of the Chopper Spotter. Designed for absolute safety for both operator and aircraft, the Chopper Spotter connects to the helicopter once it has landed at the skids for a safer and more stable method of connection. There is no possibility of the helicopter slipping off or catching the Chopper Spotter like there is with a platform dolly, either in flight or on the ground.  There is also no chance for any crewmembers to fall off and injure themselves. It lifts from the same attachment points as the factory ground-handling wheels that has a locking mechanism for every helicopter. Loading from the rear helps the operator see the engagement points on the skids, while the grooved drive wheel also improves mobility in snowy and icy conditions.

Technology

The HeliWagon is a wireless remote control landing dolly with a controller range of up to 500 feet, resulting in the option to leverage one-person operation. It features an onboard charger, lights, and over four hours of battery life on continuous use. The Chopper Spotter also features wireless capability via a handheld control for effortless, single-operator use, with battery life of up to eight hours on continuous use. Both the onboard automatic charger and APU come standard on all Chopper Spotter models. Throughout the years, the units’ manufacturing process has evolved from torches and grinders to lasers and robots, leading to a more precise and efficient process that ultimately results in a higher-quality product.

Service

There are three HeliWagon models available, each one varying slightly in dimensions. An additional remote is optional, along with the option to add lights, a step, and custom colors and logo. There are also three Chopper Spotter models available, all of which are capable of being customized and configured to meet the needs of a given aircraft or application. Chopper Spotter offers roughly 100 replacement parts that are only available from Chopper Spotter, backed by the team’s dedication toward efficient ordering processes and lead times.

Put your helicopter firmly in its place with Chopper Spotter

Since 1989, Chopper Spotter has provided helicopter owners and operators with world-leading ground-handling solutions right here in the U.S. For anyone with a helicopter, from hospitals and police departments to military organizations and private operations, we deliver full and total on-the-ground control so you can move and position your aircraft exactly as you need to. Request a quote today to start experiencing the ease and maneuverability of the industry’s best ground-handling equipment.

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