CLARKSBURG, W. Va. — Todd Gillespie is no lumberjack. He doesn't wield an axe, or ride in a bucket truck. 

Gillespie, a helicopter pilot for Rotor Blade, spends his days flying around with a massive aerial saw suspended from the helicopter on a 90-foot pipe, trimming trees that might interfere with power lines or other structures. 

As one might imagine, flying with a gigantic saw is not easy. 

“It’s like learning to fly again. It’s totally different than normal flying. It kind of drags you around because it weighs so much. As you’re dragging it through the trees, it kind of jerks you around a little bit,” Gillespie said. “It was kind of scary at first, to be honest.”

The helicopter raises a 900 pound, 27 foot long saw that includes 10 spinning blades. According to Gillespie, the aerial saw can trim anywhere from a mile and a half to three miles of vegetation, depending on how thick the tree limbs are, in one day. The flying saw can also trim in areas that might be harder for utility workers to reach. 

Through this process, anywhere from 10 to 12 miles of tree can be trimmed in a week. Gillespie said this would take months if it were done by traditional methods.

This year Mon Power, an Ohio-based utility company providing electricity in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and New York, will invest about $72 million in trimming trees along more than 4,500 power lines in the hope of reducing power outages. 

FirstEnergy, Mon Power's parent company, has been using saws and helicopters since the late ’80s, but Todd Meyers, a Mon Power spokesman, said the use of the helicopters has increased over the years. As of now there are about seven helicopters trimming trees along power corridors throughout Mon Power’s coverage area.

Wiley writes for the Times West Virginian. 

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