Choppers do the heavy lifting

A young mother passing Pikake Street pointed out the helicopter to a toddler safely strapped in a car seat yesterday.

The telltale “whomp-whomp-whomp” signaled the start of an air-conditioning units airlift for Kmart by a heavy-duty helicopter out of O‘ahu.

Portions of the Kukui Grove Shopping Center parking area were closed off for safety reasons, but none of the county’s roads were affected by the operation.

According to reports from the security personnel at Kukui Grove, the airlift was scheduled to be completed by 9 a.m., 30 minutes before the scheduled opening of the mall.

In a press release from Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer, the Kaua‘i Recycles drop bins in the back parking lot of Kmart were closed until today due to the temporary closure of the parking lot.

Lou Walters of Inter-Island Helicopters said the two-day operation was a collaborative effort between his company’s helicopter and the heavy-duty craft from O‘ahu Helicopters owned by Pacer Tsuji.

Prior to the start of operations, Walters said there was an hour-long safety briefing.

“We did 44 lifts, Thursday,” Walters said. “That included air conditioning units that weighed between 1,100 pounds up to 1,500 pounds. The O‘ahu Helicopter is completing the project with 26 lifts today. They are moving the units that average 4,500 pounds each.”

In addition to the air conditioning units, Walters said Inter-Island also worked on curbing material for the air conditioning units that are replacing current units on the Big Kmart store.

“It’s more precise and faster than if they were using cranes,” Walters said. “Everything was done in just two and a half days.”

The installation of new air conditioning units joins the facelift taking place inside the retailer at the Kukui Marketplace as the helicopter worked its magic alongside a store wall that is being repainted facing the Pikake Street side of the store.

“It’s all a part of giving customers a more pleasant shopping experience,” said Jarret Chytka, the Kmart store manager.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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