Helicopter "Buzz Saw" Works As Giant Tree Trimmer

Trimming trees along power lines is a huge job. It can be done the hard way, with lift trucks and chain saws, or it can be done the easy way -- with a 40-ft. long buzz saw bar that hangs from a helicopter.

Aerial Solutions, Tabor City, N.C., says its patented helicopter "buzz saw" can neatly square off any tree line. It consists of eleven 24-in. dia. circular saw blades attached to a 40-ft. long aluminum bar. The bar hooks to a steel cable suspended from the helicopter. The blades are belt-driven by a 45 hp, 2-cycle gas engine that mounts at one end of the bar. The blades spin at 5,800 rpm's. All operations are controlled by the pilot.

Malcolm Casner, who farms near Herrick, Ill., became fascinated with the cutting operation when it came to his area two years ago. The crew and helicopter were in the area for a week or so, clearing branches and top canopy growth along either side of local power lines. One day the crew asked if the helicopter and cutter rig could be parked in their pasture for the night. They granted permission.

Casner talked to the pilot, Kevin Gurley, and crew chief, Edwin Todd. They told him the company operates four such helicopters throughout the U.S The team works 30 days, then takes 30 days off. They cut four to six miles of power line right-of-way each day. A crew follows their path, cleaning up branches and debris. The 450 hp helicopter burns 35 gal. of fuel per hour. To conserve fuel, the helicopter is stripped of all nonessential equipment which allows the pilot to stay on the job for 50 minutes to an hour at a time.

The load limit at the hook of the helicopter is 2,000 lbs. The saw blade assembly weighs about 900 lbs. During cool fall and early winter days, when lift characteristics are at their peak, an additional four blades can be added to the assembly, adding another 200 lbs. to the load.