Helicopter Logging (heli-logging)

August 29, 2012

in General Interest

Helicopter Logging, or “heli-logging,” refers to the use of helicopters in harvesting selected trees from forests.  Helicopter logging, if it is done right, can have less impact on the local ecology than standard logging methods, but there are some safety hazards unique to logging with helicopters.

Traditional logging requires roadways to be built into the forest.  When logs are then dragged to a loading area or river for transporting, they wipe out everything in their path, which puts a strain on the wild life of the area.  When helicopters are used instead, the impact on the forest is lessened and trees can be selectively removed.  Trees are removed quickly and efficiently.

Helicopter logging creates some unique safety hazards, however.  Of course, any time you work around trees, felling them and cutting them up, there will be safety hazards.  When a helicopter is involved, though, there is the added impact of the rotor wash.  This is the wind created by the helicopter, which can exceed 100 kilometers per hour.  Any loose limbs, ground debris, dead trees (snags), or non-windsafe trees must be removed before allowing the helicopter in the area.

Another hazard with heli-logging is the potential for a dropped load.  The helicopter pilot must stay to a prescribed route in which he does not cross any work areas where ground crew or heavy equipment are located.  If the route goes over a highway, there must be workers in place to stop traffic when the helicopter crosses with a load.

Ground crew workers must always have a safe area that is at least a tree and a half length away from the loading area.  They must always be in communication with the helicopter pilot so they can alert them to any potential hazards visible from the ground.

Traditional helicopter logging has been in use for some time, and involves felling the trees in the conventional way and then bunching them into loads.  A newer method that is being used in some areas is called “standing stem” harvesting.  In this type of helicopter logging, the tree is chosen ahead of time, and the helicopter flies in with a tool called a horizontal grapple.  This tool is able to grasp the tree, snapping the trunk at pre-cut points.  The helicopter then lifts the tree stem straight up into the sky and on to the loading area.

Whether you are considering conventional buncher harvesting or the standing stem method, helicopters are somewhat expensive to run because of the amount of fuel they use.  Still, helicopter logging makes it possible to harvest timber in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible and impractical.

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