The Boeing Company and SkyHook International Inc. are teaming to develop the JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter), a new commercial heavy-lift neutrally-buoyant rotorcraft designed to address the limitations and expense of transporting equipment and materials in remote regions. Boeing has received the first increment of a multiyear contract from SkyHook to develop the new aircraft.
A helium-filled envelope is sized to support the weight of the vehicle and fuel without payload. With the empty weight of the aircraft supported by the envelope, the lift generated by four rotors is dedicated solely to lifting the payload, leaving the aircraft neutrally buoyant. The JHL-40’s capacity is approximately twice that of the current largest vertical lift (the MI-26 helicopter).
The SkyHook JHL-40 aircraft will be capable of lifting a 40-ton (80,000 lbs, 36,250 kg) sling load and transporting it up to 200 miles at a speed of 70 knots without refueling in harsh environments such as the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. Currently, conventional land and water transportation methods in these undeveloped regions are inadequate, unreliable and costly. With its lifting capacity and range, the SkyHook JHL-40 aircraft changes that for a variety of industries around the world.
Ducted propellers deliver the 70 kt speed, and enable maneuvering, positioning, and station-keeping ability.
SkyHook secured the patent for this neutrally buoyant aircraft and approached Boeing with the opportunity to develop and build the system. We conducted a feasibility study and decided this opportunity is a perfect fit for Advanced Systems’ technical capabilities.—Pat Donnelly, director of Advanced Rotorcraft Systems for Boeing
The JHL-40 mitigates the impact of building new roadways in remote areas, and Skyhook is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of the industrial projects it supports.
Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away. This Boeing-SkyHook technology represents an environmentally acceptable solution for these companies' heavy-lift short-haul challenges, and it’s the only way many projects will be able to progress economically.—Pete Jess, SkyHook president and COO
Boeing is designing and will fabricate two production prototypes of the JHL-40 at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa. Skyhook will own, maintain, operate and service all JHL-40 aircraft for customers worldwide. The new aircraft will enter commercial service as soon as it is certified by Transport Canada and the US Federal Aviation Administration.