• Florian Kirschbaum limes forests with his helicopter AS 350. Fresh supplies are brought in by a Mercedes-Benz Arocs and an Actros.

    Helicopter, Actros and Arocs in action at the forest liming.

    Heavy Rotation.

    Photos: Bernhard Huber

At the limit.

Forestry liming from the skies: pilot Florian Kirschbaum and his team have a very special job to do. Marc Redlich checks on his tablet. According to the map on the screen, they’re just a few kilometres away from the destination. He leaves behind the pothole-ridden country roads and turns into a forest track. With his left hand, he reaches for the window switch and drops the window a little. Can he already hear Florian nearby?

Florian Kirschbaum limes forests – with his helicopter AS 350.
A helicopter AS 350 and a Mercedes-Benz Actros in the forest.


And then all of a sudden, things go really fast. The deafening drum of rotor blades and a shadow scurrying across the Arocs are followed by a wall of dust which rolls directly towards the truck. Marc quickly closes the window. “Otherwise my whole pad here will be full of dust and lime,” says the 37-year-old. The helicopter is now flying just 50 metres away from the truck. Hanging 20 metres below the dark grey “Squirrel” is an aluminium funnel from which a load of light-brown powder trickles down to the ground. Then the helicopter turns back towards the loading area where Marc has since also parked up.

Forestry liming from the skies.

Smoothly, the pilot puts down the huge spreader while keeping the helicopter steadily hovering above. A wheeled loader fills the container and then the chopper gets back to spreading. It’s all done in a matter of seconds. Marc waits a short while until the dust falls a little further down. Then he takes his foot off the brake and drives directly towards the loading area. “That was Flo,” he says, pointing to the sky with his finger. The air outside tastes chalky. Your mouth feels as dry as dust.

The Hetralog team for which Marc and Florian Kirschbaum work is responsible for liming an 1,800-hectare area in the forests of the eastern Erz mountains. They let 5,400 tonnes of lime flutter down onto the treetops, from where it slowly makes its way down to the forest floor. As part of this operation, Florian takes to the air for several weeks in his helicopter. On average, around 300 tonnes of the product are released on a daily basis.

At every take-off, the helicopter AS 350 kicks up a wall of dust at the loading area.
Marc drives a Mercedes-Benz Arocs 1851 with Hydraulic Auxiliary Drive.

Logistics here actually help keep the forest healthy.

“We use the lime to counteract the acidic ground,” he explains, opening the clasp on his yellow helmet at the same time. Over the decades, industrial facilities have left their mark on the region. Rain with greater levels of sulphur and thus higher acidity has put enormous strain on the forest. “The purpose of the lime is to improve the pH value of the ground and thus create beneficial conditions for the roots of trees and plants. It’s our way of helping stabilise the ecosystem in the forest,” says the 38-year-old. “We use Mercedes-Benz trucks to bring the lime to the loading areas in the forest.”

One of the trucks – an Arocs 1851 with Hydraulic Auxiliary Drive – is being driven by Marc today. “It’s a simple calculation really: flying time is the most expensive aspect here. The deeper we drive into the forest, the shorter the distance which the helicopter has to fly. And thus the more efficiently we can work,” says Marc. Video at RoadStars.

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