HVAC upgrade calls for chopper

Mike Houdak, a Walla Walla Community College instructor, takes a picture of a helicopter that was intended to switch out a heating and cooling unit Thursday at an assisted living facility on Dalles Military Road.

Mike Houdak, a Walla Walla Community College instructor, takes a picture of a helicopter that was intended to switch out a heating and cooling unit Thursday at an assisted living facility on Dalles Military Road. Photo by Andy Porter.

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WALLA WALLA — A visitor from who dropped in Thursday afternoon created a bit of a stir on Dalles Military Road.

A large Bell Huey helicopter piloted by Tom Archer of Archer Aviation stopped traffic and brought out onlookers shortly after 1 p.m. when it landed in a large vacant field across from an RV park.

The aircraft was there to help replace a heating and cooling unit on top of an assisted living facility across from the field, said Erik Young of Young’s Heating and Cooling. The helicopter was being used because the building’s parking lot is too tight for a crane, he said.

The plan was to have the aircraft pluck the old unit off the roof, then fly the new one from the field and lower it into place. Unfortunately deteriorating weather forced the job to be canceled after a first try. Subsequent attempts are contingent on the weather.

Young said probably the biggest challenge to using the helicopter on the job was getting the OK from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Because of the type of helicopter, the congested area it was flying in and the fact that it was operating in the area controlled by the tower at Walla Walla Regional Airport, “there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get permission,” he said. “Just getting the permits for this was interesting, to say the least.”

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