Mr. Big Stuff

Air. I recently finished William Gibson’s latest: Spook Country. A bit part is played by the Hook, a Soviet-era heavy lift helicopter. I’ve long been a fan of the American CH-54/S-64 Skycrane – I built a plastic model of one years ago (you could run the winch line up and down by rotating the main rotor) and I find it’s minimalism appealing.

S-64 in firefighting mode – a shout-out to my friends on the West Coast.


I have to confess total ignorance when it comes to big Soviet/Russian choppers, but not to worry – the Google can help! While nosing around for info on the Mi-6 Hook I found another great Soviet heavy lifter. Before we go there, though – the Mi-6 is big!

If you still doubt the size of this machine, consider this – the Mi-6 can carry twice as much as the largest American helicopter, the CH-64 Tarhe “Sky Crane” – in fact, it’s capable of lifting a Tarhe. The accompanying sign said that it had often lifted MiG-17s and MiG-21s; the Vietnamese would conceal their aircraft in servicing areas in the jungle and airlift them to a roughly prepared field for takeoff, then return them to the jungle afterwards. Most remarkable perhaps is the Hook’s ability to transport up to 120 people when it’s in its high-density seating configuration!*

Even larger and much more bizarre (therefore, cool in my book) is the Mi-12 Homer prototype. Two main rotors arranged transversely (left and right, rather than the front and back we’re used to) each powered by two engines. According to Wikipedia, the rotor/powerplant combo was lifted directly from the Mi-6 (get it? Mi-6 * 2 = Mi-12). Choppers start off as improbable objects – add in that Russian air thing (think ekranoplan) and you get:


Land. I’ve been wanting to post on this bit of gorgeousity for a while. I’m very partial to the union (set-wise) of Africa and Garratt. Having grown up on a diet of Big Boys, Challengers and the like, Garratts are strange, alien and – you guessed it – way cool. How do I love this steam engine? Let me count the ways:

  • Beyer-Garratt 4-8-4 + 4-8-4 – the largest locomotive ever built for 50 lb (light!) rail. Meter-gauge!
  • May have crossed the bridge at Tsavo (in my mind, it certainly did)!
  • Shares a nickname with Walter Dalrymple Maitland Bell, who used a 7×57 (among other light calibers) on elephant.

The Kenya Uganda Railway No. 87 Karamoja:


Beautiful model (be sure to click through and check out the 3-D view):


Not Karamoja, but a Garratt at Tsavo:


Sea. Via the Telstar Logistics blog, a pointer to John Konrad’s thoughts on the Pasha Bulker incident report. The Pasha Bulker ran aground June 8, 2007 on Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle, New South Wales (if you don’t know where New South Wales is – I’m not going to name the country – spend the rest of the day with an atlas, please). New vocab word for the day – hogged – and an incredible Flickrset. The gCaptain blog where Mr. Konrad’s post appears looks like something I’ll need to visit from time to time.

The title of the photo is “Correctly parked”.

3 thoughts on “Mr. Big Stuff

  1. During my time in the Army I got to fly in the “people pod” under a CH-54, at Grafenwoehr, Germany IIRC. Unbelieveably loud – you had to wear earplugs during the ride.

    We used to ride in Hueys a lot – showing my age! I’m not the greatest with heights, and flying without doors on the outward facing benches wasn’t a treat for me – especially when the pilot would bank in my direction. One fellow dropped his M-16 out of a Huey during a banking manuever and our battalion spent a day in the field looking for it.

  2. The skycrane inspired NASA’s quite simply insane design for the Mars Science Laboratory, which is going to be lowered to the surface from a hovering rocket platform.

  3. R – the model I built, way back when, had a pod you could connect to it – that’s as close as I ever got. Must have been a wild ride (the Hueys too).

    P – wow – I did not know about the MSL mission, let alone the skycrane component! Thanks.

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