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As It Was: Helicopter Logging Takes Flight in 1970’s

In Southern Oregon, the sound of a helicopter often heralds another season of logging in the Cascades and Siskiyous.  Before the 1970’s, logging in the Pacific Northwest was primarily the province of earth-bound men and machines.  There had been interest in using helicopters for logging in the 1950’s and 60’s, but until the development of heavy-lifting copters for military use in the Vietnam War, the aircraft couldn’t handle the weight of heavy timber.

In 1971, using a heavy-duty Sikorsky helicopter, Jack Erickson of Central Point-based Erickson Air-Crane, and Wes Lematta of Columbia helicopters in Aurora, Ore., pioneered “Heli-Logging” in the Plumas National Forest near Taylorsville, Calif.  This project demonstrated helicopters were commercially feasible for logging.  Although more expensive than other logging techniques, Heli-Logging works well in remote areas, on very steep slopes, and in environmentally sensitive areas.  The Lomakatsi Restoration Project, for example, uses helicopters to extract timber in its efforts to restore Southern Oregon and Northern California forests.

The helicopter’s versatility means the whirlybird sound will be an integral part of forestry in Southern Oregon for seasons to come. 


Sources: "Columbia Helicopters." Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 Dec. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Helicopters. Accessed 22 May 2017; “Restoration Forestry Program." Lomakatsi Restoration Project, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, 2017, lomakatsi.org/restoration-forestry-fuel-hazard-reduction/. Accessed 22 May 2017; Bruce, Bob. "Helicopter Logging’s Bumpy Ride." Timber West, July 2003, forestnet.com/timberwest/archives/July_Aug_03/helicopter.htm. Accessed 21 May 2017; "Aerial Logging Systems." Forest Encyclopedia Network, 2017, www.forestencyclopedia.net/p/p2273. Accessed 22 May 2017.

Charles Ter Bush is a retired legal publishing executive and a recovering attorney.  A member of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, he enjoys learning and writing about the area.