“There was a tremendous sense of pride,” Mr. Horton says. “I’ve worked here for 28 years, and that project is still the most unique I’ve ever been involved with. The whole symbolism of the project will make it my favorite.”
Mr. Horton, who lives in Medford, Ore., says the company first got involved with the project when its marketing manager heard about the idea.
“They had heard that the Mississippi National Guard was going to move the statue,” he says. “But there is a provision in the law that says when there is work out there that can be done by a civilian operator, it should be done by civilians.”
Erickson protested, won and was invited to be part of the operation.
To prepare for the project, Mr. Horton and his team of four pilots and four construction workers met with engineers, lighting and protections services, and the Capitol Police.
“To make sure that we could lift it without it tilting or falling over, we had to install a six-inch ring underneath the statue,” he said. “Now it’s six inches taller than what it was before we moved it — besides it weighs more than 16,000 pounds.”
The 1993 restoration project took four months to complete, Ms. Wolanin says. Corrosion was removed by water blasted at medium pressure. Other repairs included the insertion of bronze plugs and patches.
Workers also repainted the statue to its original bronze green color and ended the process by applying layers of acrylic lacquer and wax to protect the statue from further corrosion, she says.
For the project, the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission provided $780,000 in privately raised funds, of which $60,000 was used for the airlift, Mr. Horton says.
Before his crew returned the statue to its spot on top of the Capitol, Mr. Horton remembers carrying a 50-pound bolt to fasten the statue back onto the building.
“The elevator doors opened up to Senator Sam Nunn’s office, and when I got out, a lady came out of his office and asked if she could help,” Mr. Horton says. “There was a chandelier above her head, and I jokingly told her that I was there to fix the bolt that held up the light.”
Then, Mr. Horton says, Mr. Nunn came out of his office and wished him and his crew good luck.
When his crew placed the statue back on the dome of the Capitol on Oct. 23, 1993, Mr. Horton was standing at the statue’s base, guiding the pilots as they lowered the statue.
Around the Capitol and down the Mall, a crowd of 50,000 to 100,000 persons had gathered, including President Clinton, Mr. Horton says.
“Those helicopters can be very noisy, so we wear helmets to protect our ears,” he says. “But as the helicopter set the statue and the hooks opened and the helicopter began to separate, I could hear the cheers of the crowd over the noise of the helicopter.”