Aerial Saw Saves Crews Time Trimming Trees

By Erin Delmore

They say it’s like a hedge trimmer. If a hedge trimmer were 20 feet long and suspended by a helicopter.

“We can cover in an hour what it would take a crew two or three days to do,” said Ted McAllister, general manager for Aerial Solutions.

McAllister heads a North Carolina company that’s found plenty of work in northern and central New Jersey along with 23 other states. This aerial saw is JCP&L’s game-changer for tree-trimmers.

“It’d be very, very difficult for people to move up and down this kind of way to bring trucks that need to get up into the trees to cut the trees,” said JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano.

“We don’t have to turn around and have men climbing trees, you know, each and every individual tree in order to try and do this work,” said Scott Wirs, regional supervisor for First Energy.

It takes a crew around three hours to trim a tree. The aerial saw, with its 10, 25-inch blades? A couple minutes.

“It’s a belt-driven saw, self-contained from the aircraft,” said McAllister. “It does have quick-release devices. In case there’s an emergency, we can release the saw. The pilot is fully self-contained and in control of the aircraft at all times, and if he sees a problem, he can release the saw or safely land the aircraft.”

The landing site is in a cornfield four miles away from where the aerial saw was at work near the power lines. It takes a two-person team to run this operation — one on the ground, in charge of landing and refueling, and the other is the pilot. He leans out the side of the aircraft to watch the direction of the saw as it flies. It’s a strenuous job so he lands once an hour. He’ll spend six hours in the air every day.