High Line Helicopters LLC (HLH), an airborne power line service company that offers cost effective solutions for a wide range of utility related projects, was recently featured in the CantonRep in Stark County, Ohio, for its part of a $4.2 billion project by FirstEnergy to upgrade its transmission network, replacing lines and insulators that are decades old to offer more efficient and reliable service.
The project is one of several in which FirstEnergy has used helicopters to help install the lines, said Doug Colafella, a FirstEnergy spokesman.
Using helicopters is faster and more environmentally friendly, especially in areas where towers can't be easily accessed, such as the wetlands, Colafella said. Helicopters allow for a smaller crew. And they avoid the need for trucks and equipment to drive onto someone's property and potentially cause damage, added David Garen, a pilot and vice president of High Line Helicopters of Gainesville, Va.
HLH understands that minimizing outage downtime is key, and their website states their goal is "to address project sensitivities such as environmental impact, minimization of matting and right-of-way intrusion. Leave it to HLH to ensure the job gets done safely, on time and within budget. We meet tight deadlines and maintain accessibility in most transmission line environments. Whether HLH serves as a primary contractor or as part of a team, our highly skilled crews can significantly improve production and performance on your transmission line project."
The method for the FirstEnergy project is described as follows:
The transmission towers sitting in a wetland off Trump Ave NE, near Orchard View Drive SE, were probably built around 1930; the engineering drawings are dated 1922, said Rod Bodosi, a construction site coordinator with Burns & McDonnel.
The firm is working with FirstEnergy on the project. They also coordinated the necessary permits and notifying property owners of the work.
Linemen — contracted from J.W. Didado — remove old insulators and hardware from the tower. Some of them are so old, they fall apart when handled, Bodosi said. Then they'll install new insulators and a roller to support the old wire. Pulling sites are established at either end of the section of towers where the line is being strung.
Once all the towers in that section are in line, the old wire is pulled out using equipment called a dolly. A rope at the end is attached to a new wire, which is pulled through. "Kind of like a fishing pole, but this one's 20 miles long," Bodosi explained. The stretch through this area has 114 towers. It takes crews about an hour per tower using the helicopter, he said.
Safety is a big deal, Garen concludes, and the crew never works on active transmission lines. Before taking off, he briefed crews and observers on safety standards. "Any time you mix humans and electricity and helicopters and big trucks, the potential is there," he said. "But these guys are professionals and we take it very seriously."
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