A bird? A plane?

No, it's a helicopter equipped with an enormous aerial saw.

It's probably not something many Yorkers have ever seen unless they watched an action scene featuring such a helicopter in the James Bond movie "The World Is Not Enough."

In the movie, the helicopter-maneuvered saw sliced through a building from above.

But Met-Ed contracted with North Carolina-based Aerial Solutions to use one of the surreal-looking set-ups for a more productive purpose locally.

For the first time in York County, the utility will trim trees along its transmission rights of way by helicopter, said Kathy Seilhamer, the electric company's manager of external affairs.

An Aerial Solutions chopper was in East Manchester and Hellam townships Monday, trimming 12 miles of tree line along First Energy power lines. The
An Aerial Solutions chopper was in East Manchester and Hellam townships Monday, trimming 12 miles of tree line along First Energy power lines. The helicopter has a 130-foot boom and a series of circular saws hanging from it. (Bil Bowden photo)

Starting Monday and for the next several days, the saw will slice through branches in the Mount Wolf area, working its way along a transmission corridor that starts at Brunner Island power plant and ends at a facility near Yorkana, she said.

More efficient: Met-Ed spokesman Scott Surgeoner said residents are often unfamiliar with the procedure because the aerial saws are used only in less-populated areas where the rugged terrain makes transmission corridors difficult to access.

"It flies down and trims trees encroaching onto the right of way," he said. "(The time spent trimming) varies based on terrain and growth, but it's ... an efficient use of manpower and resources, and it covers much more right of way than crews on foot."

He said Met-Ed spends $13 million to $15 million per year trimming trees because downed branches are the leading cause of power outages.

The saw can do in a few days what might otherwise take months or weeks, he said.

He said some trimmings

can be left to decompose. But trimmings that have fallen onto access roads or other maintained areas are removed by a ground crew.

Quick work: The contraption includes a series of 24-inch rotary blades powered by a motor suspended on a vertical boom beneath it, Surgeoner said.

As the helicopter flies slowly along the right-of-way, the aerial saw quickly cuts trees and other vegetation. The saw can cut branches 8-to-10 inches in diameter without tearing, and most of what's trimmed is less than 10 inches, he said.

Aerial saw trimming is completed every 8-to-10 years depending on the area, with hand-trimming as needed. Without the use of aerial saws, hand-trimming is needed every five years, Surgeoner said.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.