Simple Grapple Targets Haulers
A grapple originally designed for use in heli-logging is winning fans as a simple extraction device for land-based haulers.
Designed and built by Putaruru engineer, Ron Parker, the HeliHawk Harvester has been updated with more robust materials to make it suitable for using beneath a skyline carriage or just on its own.
The simplicity of the design and construction has already caught the attention of some crews in the central and eastern North Island, who have been conducting their own trials, and one has also been sold to a South Island contractor.
“The beauty of this grapple is that it needs no hydraulics or electrics to operate – it’s simple, yet revolutionary,” says Ron, who sold his welding business two years ago to concentrate on further development of the grapple.
Originally built as a lightweight sky hook to be used by helicopters recovering valuable native logs from the bush, the HeliHawk grapple is not only popular among heli-loggers in New Zealand, but also around the world, with examples at work in the US, Canada and Europe.
The grapple was famously used in the 2002 salvage of logs from the stranded ship Jody F Millennium off the coast of Gisborne. Three helicopters, each equipped with a HeliHawk grapple, were able to grab one log every 30 seconds from the holds to lighten the vessel so it could be re-floated.
After selling his welding business, Mr Parker has concentrated on designing various attachments for helicopters, from the grapple through to monsoon buckets.
“But then a bushman asked if he could try it out under a skyline carriage on his hauler,” says Ron.
The concept worked, but the 150kg heli grapple was found to be too light for this type of logging and Ron set to work on re-designing it to beef up the components and use stronger Bisalloy 8oA in the frame and tongs. The new forestry version weighs in at 450kg, still relatively light, but now strong enough to consistently work with 2-tonne loads.
It’s around half the weight of similar grapples, explains Ron, because it doesn’t have the extra weight of electrics, hydraulics and other componentry.
“It minimises the amount of moving parts and maximises the productivity through its weight and efficiency – the slide system is self-opening and closing,” he says, without elaborating, since the exact mechanism is a closely guarded secret and it’s been patented.
Ron has watched it operating with logging crews, fitted to a carriage and also just slung under a skyline, and he says it works well in either application.
“Like any grapple it takes time to get used to how it works and you can’t use it in every setting, but it has surprised people with just how good it goes, “ he adds.
“The breaker-out just lowers the rope on a carriage, it opens up using just one line, not two, and when you raise it, the grapple closes around the log. Couldn’t be simpler.”
Another benefit is that the grapple can also be attached to the line in under two minutes and removed just as quickly.
Ron says his motivation for developing the new grapple comes from a desire to see breaker-outs removed from the danger zone, because it replaces hooking up with conventional strops.
Although there are working examples now out in the forest, Ron has further development ideas in mind, such as fitting a rotator. He also thinks it will work well with a remote camera. A video of the grapple in action is on Ron’s www.helihawk.co.nz website.
Article by NZ Logging Magazine
Gisbourne Herald, February 2002
Hundreds watched in wonder as a trio of helicopters effortlessly swooped in on the stranded log carrier Jody F Millennium and cruised out with a log dangling from below. It looked simple and the concept is actually very simple but the self-setting self-release grapple is a world leader, dreamed up by engineer Ron Parker. The HeliHawk grapple took 6 months of drawing plans on pie papers, a heap of input from foreman Grant Kelsen and 12 months of field trials. The finished product is one Parker is enraptured with. “The catch is the unique part of this”. It took a bit of “nutting out” but between Kelsen and Parker, they solved it.
“I haven’t seen anything else in the world like this” he said. “It’s real revolutionary. “
“The beauty of this grapple is that it needs no hydraulics or electrics to operate” said Parker who owns Putaruru Welding Ltd. Other operations using electrics, hydraulics or pneumatic systems lent themselves to problems, he said. Parker has a background in engineering and says he has ‘dabbled’ in inventing things in the past – but nothing as successful as the HeliHawk. “I haven’t seen anything else in the world like this” he said. “It’s real revolutionary”. It works just as well on a crane as on a helicopter and can be made to accommodate any size. He and Grant Ward from Huey Logging Ltd who is described as a pioneer in the in helicopter logging saw an opportunity with the Jody stranding and headed straight to Gisbourne. After meeting with a salvage master David Hancox, they were in.
The HeliHawk halves the weight of any other grapple available because it doesn’t have the extra weight of electrics, hydraulics and other pieces. “It minimizes the amount of moving parts and maximises the productivity through it’s weight and efficiency”. But just how it works so successfully is a closely guarded secret with a patent pending. The shifting of 1000s of tonnes off the Jody was it’s first really big test and involved nearly every grapple that Parker had built – all but one actually. “One of the most amazing things was that Joe Faram and his pilot Ray Worters had never seen before and yet they were able to hook one up and off they went”.
“the teams were able to nab a log or two every 30 seconds.”
“The shifting of 1000s of tonnes off the Jody was it’s first really big test and involved nearly every grapple that Parker had built – all but one actually.”
With 3 helicopters working with the grapple, the teams were able to nab a log or two every 30 seconds. Joe Faram says without the grapple, heli-extraction of the logs would not have been able to be done. And it was cost effective, according to Faram. Already Parker has received two orders for grapple from the salvage job and Faram has secured a contract using one too. Now Parker’s aim is firmly on the overseas market. United salvage director Ian Hoskison and surveyor Peter Nation praised the Kiwi invention. “It’s very good and very simple – we like that” said Mr Hoskison. Mr Nation said the choppers had done a good job in helping with the re-float attempt.