NJ using helicopter with giant saw blades to trim trees

March 27, 2013 3:49:09 PM PDT
Jersey Central Power & Light's introduced Action News to its newest weapon in the war to keep the lights on.

It is an aerial tree trimmer suspended from a helicopter that uses giant saw blades to shear off branches where they're encroaching on power lines.

"A gang of 10 blades 25 inches in diameter each, so you have a cutting surface of roughly 20 feet, and that's extended from the aircraft by a series of aluminum booms," Ted McAllister of Aerial Solutions, Inc. said.

The blades spin at 2,400 revolutions a minute, moving up and down to cut back tree limbs under the control of a skilled pilot who leans out of his aircraft to watch his progress.

"The aerial saw is able to turn around and cut from the top down and get a nice clean cut," Scott Wirs, JCP&L Regional Supervisor, said.

Keeping trees away from transmission lines like those running through Mercer County Park is a must. If branches come in contact with the 230,000 volts running through there it can cause big problems.

"Within a certain amount of feet you're going to have an arc and thereby it turns around and takes the line out," Scott said.

JCP&L hired the helicopter after Hurricane Sandy. That's when hundreds of thousands of people were left without power after fallen trees made it difficult to repair towers and transmission lines.

"Using the helicopter saw makes it much more efficient and much more effective. For instance, we are in a right-of-way here, where we would have had to have several different trucks in a confined area doing the same work which would have been much more costly and taken a great deal more time," JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said.

It cost about $500 an hour to hire the helicopter, but JCP&L says it's worth it.

They say the aerial saw is safer and can do in an hour work that would take a tree trimming crew two days to complete.


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