It has been seen in the skies over Frederick County.
You may have seen it in the skies over Frederick. No, it's not a bird, or a plane, or Superman, or even a UFO from another planet. It's an aerial saw. "People driving around may do a double take when they see a helicopter with something that looks like a large chain saw suspended under it, and that's exactly what it is" says spokesman Todd Meyers. "We're out there trimming large power line rights' of way."
In most instances, Potomac Edison uses tree climbers, and crews in bucket trucks to trim trees near its power lines, but the aerial saw is used in places which are inaccessible to motor vehicles. "On a good day, the helicopter can trim on both sides of the right of way, maybe a mile or so a day. And that's a lot faster than a ground crew can work," he says.
The aerial saw has been operating in Frederick County in recent weeks. "We were at Skycroft, one of the summer camps, last week. We are now in the area of Gambrill State Park. And when we're done cutting a 230,000 volt power line in that area, we'll be down in Urbana," says Meyers.
Potomac Edison does tree trimming along its power line rights of way on a periodic basis. Meyers says falling trees and tree limbs are the biggest cause of power outages. "It's an interconnecting grid that serves tens of thousands of individuals, and perhaps hundreds of thousands. So we need to make sure that trees never come in contact with those lines," he says.
Potomac Edison has contracted with Haverfield Aviation out of Gettysburg, Pa., which preforms the work. It flies the helicopter to the site, and then lands. At that time, the saws are mounted on the chopper before it takes off and trims the trees.
"It can be an emotional issue trimming trees because people love their trees," Meyers says. "But by the same token, we're obligated to make sure that we're getting electricity and keeping it flowing to our customers, and trimming is just part of what we need to do."
Potomac Edison says any tree limbs or trees themselves which fall on access roads, maintained yards or agricultural fields, or streams, are moved to adjacent wooded areas by ground crews. Ground crews will also identify and remove dead trees which are found along utility line rights of way which could threaten power lines, according to the company.
It also says proper vegetation management doesn't necessarily involve removal of all trees. Plants and shrubs which do not interfere with electric facilities are not disturbed. Potomac Edison also says well-maintained electric rights of way through wooded areas can provide food and cover that wildlife need to survive.