Oregon Christmas Tree Harvest With Helicopter
December 9, 2013 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Oregon Christmas Tree Harvest With Helicopter.

I can't even fly a helicopter in GTAV without crashing and burning in the pilot training course.
posted by SpacemanStix (46 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had to watch a bunch of other videos of the same thing to be convinced that was real. If it is (it's still hard to believe but is certainly plausible) then that is some incredible flying. A lot of trust in his skill, too, with his use of anticipating the swing of the trees into the truck before release.
posted by Brockles at 5:13 PM on December 9, 2013


How many Christmas trees do they have to sell before it pays for one hour of flight time?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Oregon, next to an tree farm, this is real and just as amazing to see in person.
posted by thebestsophist at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the book Chickenhawk, Robert Mason talks about carrying a sling load with his helicopter in Vietnam. It's especially tricky because the helicopter is already hanging from the main rotor like a pendulum, so adding the sling load creates a compound pendulum that can deceive the pilot into making the wrong control inputs.
posted by exogenous at 5:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


AND in that fog...
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:29 PM on December 9, 2013


This clip did indeed bring back Chickenhawk.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:29 PM on December 9, 2013


my dad used to do this. not the piloting, but the on ground work. it is pretty amazing and i still find it hard to believe that it works out financially.
posted by Glibpaxman at 5:30 PM on December 9, 2013


If the trees are sold in Los Angeles, it works out... :-)

I live just up the hill from a helicopter logging operation and it's fun to watch.
posted by jgaiser at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2013


Total variable cost per hour for a 206B-3 Jetranger III: $553. At a bit over 30 seconds per tree that's nearly 120 trees per hour, so $5 per tree. Not as bad as I'd have guessed, but you can see why you'd want a fast pilot.
posted by lantius at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


That kind of pilot skill is just what we need for those water bombing runs against summer forest fires.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:44 PM on December 9, 2013


Like, maybe this what they do to keep sharp in the off season.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:45 PM on December 9, 2013


Clearly we need a Christmas tree farmer to explain how this is cheaper than hiring some loggers with chain saws and some mules to drag them across the field? I can see the video evidence myself but it's hard for me to believe it.
posted by bukvich at 6:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In helicopter view.
(and on a clear day)
posted by Science! at 6:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


http://heli.stanford.edu/

This guy also made Coursera, so that's a thing
posted by curuinor at 6:30 PM on December 9, 2013


I had a neighbor who would fill a refrigerated semi-trailer of Noble Fir trees (he and his helpers cut). He'd haul the load to the Los Angeles area to sell and mostly lived off the proceeds the rest of the year.

Here in Oregon, nice, large u-cut trees are going for $50-100 each. Doesn't take long to recover the cost of a helicopter.
posted by jgaiser at 6:31 PM on December 9, 2013


How many Christmas trees do they have to sell before it pays for one hour of flight time?

Total variable cost per hour for a 206B-3 Jetranger III: $553.

Six with about $40 left over?
posted by TedW at 6:35 PM on December 9, 2013


I love the smell of Balsam Fir in the morning
posted by hal9k at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was on a motorbike trip to visit my parents a few weeks ago, and my no-interstates-allowed route from Portland to Parents took me past three different helos doing this sort of stuff. Until then I had no idea this was a thing. So cool.
posted by Chutzler at 6:41 PM on December 9, 2013


Super cool. Can't help but think that this guy is just a hair's breath away from a crash, but then again, so am I every time I drive my car...
posted by Cycloptichorn at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2013


I think it makes sense to use choppers because of the way they harvest the trees. Older trees grow alongside younger trees, so the ground crews can't just drag out the harvest in straight lines. Rather, they bundle them at localized staging areas so the helicopter can work out the shortest distances. That saves tons of time, plus it allows them to let their tress grow a bit more wildly, using space that would have had to be reserved for lanes.

Also, I recently watched "All is Bright", and this amused me to think about Rudd's character's embellishments.
posted by planetesimal at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2013


How does piloting a helicopter work?
posted by gucci mane at 7:53 PM on December 9, 2013


This is the exact job that those drones are gunning for. Goodnight, American hero.
posted by antonymous at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many Christmas trees do they have to sell before it pays for one hour of flight time?

Total variable cost per hour for a 206B-3 Jetranger III: $553.

Six with about $40 left over?


I guess I live in the land of Christmas trees and find it hard to believe people pay that much for them elsewhere.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How does piloting a helicopter work?

Imagine sitting on top of a beach ball that's balanced on another beach ball, and you get to control the whole thing with an 8-bit joystick.
posted by pjern at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm still puzzling how they attach and release the trees so fast. Is it magnets?
posted by zardoz at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Magnets? How do they work?
posted by Gronk at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2013


It's not as easy to tell in the main video, but they're definitely hooking more than one tree at a time. You can see the size of the bundle better in the video linked in this post.

That should make the economics a lot more sensible.
posted by inparticularity at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2013


Oh yeah, and that is one awesome-ass video.
posted by inparticularity at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2013


This link says they move them by air to minimize damage to the trees (which sell on their cosmetic value).
posted by planetesimal at 8:42 PM on December 9, 2013


I'm still puzzling how they attach and release the trees so fast. Is it magnets?

My best guess is there's a former minor league outfielder down there, looking for an incoming, Christmas-tree-sized clasp emerging from the fog on a high-speed ballistic trajectory. He reaches out and just grabs it with an oversized leather mitt. The clasp lands in the glove with a crisp snap. He hooks the clasp to the tree, signals the waiting pilot with two firm jerks on a braided steel cable, and watches the tree fly gracefully away from him.

On foggy days like this, when the fog is so thick that he cannot see the helicopter above or even the ground below, only the hook and the tree, the ex-outfielder sometimes has a peculiar feeling. He feels as if the tree does not fly away from him, but that it is he who flies away from the tree, moving backwards through space without the sensation of acceleration.

It reminds him of childhood Christmases spent with his mother's second husband on a small acreage in rural Arkansas. The first year after Dad left was the first Christmas in Arkansas. The hoarfrost had left the trees looking otherworldly, at once peaceful and menacing. He felt like the world had moved around him in the past year, without his consent or his awareness, reassembling itself into something new and barely recognizable. He wondered who this new man was, and who he was to become, and if the process of that becoming would also unfold without his consent or awareness.

He thinks these things as he works, listening mostly to pop country hits from his teenage years. "All my rowdy friends are coming over tonight," he wishes to himself in the foggy silence between loads, punching a clenched fist into his waiting glove.
posted by compartment at 8:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


It looks like they're using a remote release sky hook (like this). There are men on the ground who catch the empty hook and attach a line for the next bundle of trees. You can see video of that end of the operation here.
posted by bizwank at 8:43 PM on December 9, 2013


With our Hueys we sling 3,000 pound pallets of Christmas Trees from the fields to the landings while we use our Jet Ranger to sling 700 pound bundles of Christmas Trees to the landings. All totaled we operate for 40 days and fly 280 hours. We are responsible for helping move 575,000 Christmas Trees.

And that's just one company.
posted by planetesimal at 8:46 PM on December 9, 2013


You can see video of that end of the operation here.

I wonder if any workers have put themselves in that baling machine at 7:30 as a dare.
posted by crapmatic at 9:13 PM on December 9, 2013


How does piloting a helicopter work?

The large rotors on top are used by the pilot to beat the air into submission.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


they move them by air to minimize damage to the trees (which sell on their cosmetic value

Exactly, and then they drop them into a truck.

crapmatic: baling machines like that are fairly common; our local pick-and-cut operation uses one to bag the trees for you to take home on top of your car. They don't let the customers near it, understandably.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 PM on December 9, 2013


I worked with helicopters and sling loads for a while - the pilot has a switch in the cockpit that can open the hook on the cable, either at the top or the bottom of the sling. I'm guessing the pilot flies to where the trees have all been felled and baled up together, someone on the ground there grabs the hook on the bottom of the sling and attaches it to the load, signals to the pilot, who is already on their way back. Then it's the incredibly difficult matter of dropping that load precisely into a truck and releasing the cable at exactly the right time.
posted by twirlypen at 4:55 AM on December 10, 2013


There are men on the ground who catch the empty hook and attach a line for the next bundle of trees.

That's some great flying. The hook went right into the guys hand, swinging the right direction, every time. The guy just pulled his hands together to put the hook on the rope and his signal it was good was to run away (practical and obvious, with an orange jacket on!).

The timing and the length of the cable must be critical. That's some serious flying, and the in-cockpit view makes it look much less dramatic on the airframe as the initial link suggested. Great use of the momentum and rotation styles of the helicopter.
posted by Brockles at 5:18 AM on December 10, 2013


How does piloting a helicopter work?

All the jokes were taken already, so the serious answer in a nutshell:

For a "normal" helicopter, namely a helicopter with one main rotor and one tail rotor, the main rotor controls vertical and lateral movement and the tail rotor controls yawing. The main rotor has control arms attached to each blade that individually controls each blade's angle of attack. To make the helicopter go straight up, more power is added and the angles of attack of all the blades is increased. To move forward, the angle of attack of the blades is flattened out as each blade passes the front of the fuselage - if you think of the blades creating a disk of lift, this slightly decreases the amount of lift in front of the helicopter which causes the whole disk (and therefore the rest of the vehicle) to pitch forward. Now your disk is no longer pointed perpendicular to the ground, which moves the helicopter forward. You can move laterally or backwards similarly.

Yawing (that is, spinning the helicopter around its axis) is accomplished with the tail rotor. The tail rotor is primarily there to counteract the angular momentum of the main rotor; if the tail rotor suddenly stops then the fuselage will start spinning very quickly in the opposite direction of the main rotor. So, if you increase or decrease the pitch of the tail rotor blades then you'll break that equilibrium condition and cause the whole helicopter to spin around the axis. Doing a "normal" turn (following an arc in the sky, similar to what an airplane would do) is a combination of banking the helicopter with the main rotor and adding enough yaw to keep the helicopter tracing that arc.

Inside the cockpit, the pilot has four controls - throttle, cyclic, collective, and anti-torque pedals. Throttle controls the amount of power going to the rotors, and is adjusted to keep the main rotor within its operating RPM range. Collective control the rotor blades collectively - that is, all of the blades increase or decrease their angles of attack at the same time. Cyclic controls the blades cyclically, which allows you to control forward and lateral movement. The anti-torque pedals adjust the pitch of the tail rotor blades.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:49 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


You have to operate the throttle and collective independently? Ugh. Sounds worse than drumming.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:09 AM on December 10, 2013


Awesome.

And I guess I'm not surprised at all that they are using choppers to clear the trees. A full 1/3 of all the Christmas trees in the US come from Oregon. It's a $200million industry here. And they have major deadline.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:07 AM on December 10, 2013


Surprised not to see any Choplifter references in here.
posted by glhaynes at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2013


Then it's the incredibly difficult matter of dropping that load precisely into a truck and releasing the cable at exactly the right time.

This is what makes it for me. He's like a fucking metronome up there, letting the tree swing out past his hover point and out over the truck just as he releases the latch, every single time. So in addition to backseatpilot's "four controls - throttle, cyclic, collective, and anti-torque pedals" -- he also has to be managing, somehow, the cable length and the latch control. Guy is Batman.
posted by The Bellman at 11:09 AM on December 10, 2013


I suspect the cable is a fixed length. So, while no less impressive, he's judging the swing so that it stops above the truck and then releasing when the trees are stationary (near as possible) to the truck and then letting them drop. It's more obvious from some of the other videos, but it makes no sense to change the cable length at all when you can change the height of the chopper.
posted by Brockles at 12:59 PM on December 10, 2013


'How does piloting a helicopter work?'

ps. The main rotor is basically a spinning wing using the airfoil shape for lift.
posted by judson at 8:39 AM on December 11, 2013


It all looks cool and the pilots are indeed artists of the 'sling manuver. BUT- they can't fly in real dense fog (which happens often during Harvest), or winds over a certain (pretty low) MPH. They (we) still use trucks to bring'em outta the fields. (not forested like they say in the TV story.) These are Farms, not forests, (rotation ~6-10 years, depending on species), and the only reason they use choppers is they don't have a decent road system in their fields. But seriously, the hardest-working, guys to be admired are those who put the heli-bundles together out in the field. Those guys are hard-boned fellers, like I was 20 yrs ago. Carrying ropes, trying to stay ahead of the 'chopper. John Henry and the steamdrill stuff...
posted by primdehuit at 3:43 PM on December 11, 2013


I realize I wasn't quite clear on the trucks thing, they're loaded by hand (by humans) into trucks out in the field in most places where the road systems permit. People are still cheaper than choppers (>$500/hr), (people ~$10-15/hr), most of the time. Don't think they (bosses, contratistas) don't figure this out. It is still quite a show, though.
posted by primdehuit at 5:15 PM on December 11, 2013


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