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A lifesaving air-cargo system?

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Imagine being a helicopter pilot and hav-ing to ferry materials to front-line troops and each time exposing yourself to enemy fire.

Until now, that has largely been the situation - a helicopter ferrying to the front lines and back, one load at a time.SkyHook Technologies, 13526 S. 110 West, has developed a cargo-management system that company of-fi-cials believe will speed up the process and thus reduce the chances of losing a helicopter and pilots to enemy fire.

The SkyHook system is designed to carry up to 27,000 pounds on three hooks attached to the underside of a chopper via a heavy-duty strap or 36,000 pounds on six hooks. The company also has developed a light aerial delivery system for loads up to 12,000 pounds.

Once the helicopter is over the drop zone, a computer that can be operated from the inside the machine or from the ground releases the cargo in the right place and the helicopter goes to other drop zones.

Not only does the device have applications for the military, but it has commercial and disaster relief possibilities, said William A. Fresh, chief executive officer of Magellan Technology Inc., parent company of SkyHook.

Fresh said SkyHook has developed initiatives for selling its devices to the military and expects some contracts to be signed for delivery of the hooks in early 1998. He has tested the six-hook version for the U.S. Marine Corps and the three-hook version for the Utah National Guard.

"The SkyHook cargo-management system breakthrough technology enables the air crew to fully maximize a helicopter's load capacity while minimizing the amount of flight time," said Fresh.

"Time in the air can be reduced by as much as 70 percent by using SkyHook CMS. With helicopter costs running $1,000 to $4,000 per hour plus crew costs this produces substantial savings," said Blair K. Blacker, SkyHook president. "The ability to deliver or retrieve three to six payloads to multiple locations in a single sortie is also a very significant safety factor," he said.

Blacker was in the Army for 26 years and just before retiring was commander of an aviation brigade consisting of more than 200 helicopters and 1,700 soldiers.

The load-bearing components of the SkyHook are made of high-quality chrome-moly steel. It is designed for stable flight, loaded or empty, and can be converted from six hooks to three hooks within minutes.

With the system, Blacker said, helicopter air crews receive detailed real-time information regarding the condition of the load they are carrying, including individual and combination payload weights through various digital safety readings.

Loads are released on command, enabling the drop of one or several loads simultaneously. Navigation, identification and other lighting systems are controlled by the operators.

SkyHook has received some patents and applied for others on these devices. The first units are expected to be ready for shipment later this year.

Magellan was founded in Utah in 1989. SkyHook was founded in 1995 and became a Magellan subsidiary in late 1996.