Helicopters Prove Efficient for Utility Construction Projects
In 2016 the southern energy giant Entergy set out to replace aging electric power transmission lines along a stretch of land starting at the eastern edge of Arkansas and running 107 miles towards the middle of the State. Entergy wanted to ensure their customers’ electric reliability by upgrading the existing wooden transmission structures to more modern and sturdy steel poles. With this upgrade, additional customers could tap into the electric grid and at the same time safeguard against potential power outages.
The 139 existing H-frame wooden structures carrying 161kV power that needed to be replaced had been transmitting power since WWII (see video below). It’s likely, that back in the day, a mule team transported these wooden structures as the terrain is extremely hilly along parts of the route making access with conventional ground vehicles difficult.
Gone are the days of mule teams. However, now with environmental constraints, narrow right-of-ways and areas where bucket trucks can’t get the job done, helicopters are what energy companies rely on.
Entergy called in Air2 to solve issues surrounding rights-of-way and rolling hills when they needed help with a transmission line project along the route from Calico Rock to Norfolk and then continuing over to Gillett, AR.
While a Heliqwest KMAX helicopter ferried new steel poles from a pre-staged laydown yard, an Air2 MD 500 transported ground crews to each structure location to receive and secure the poles at each location.
In as little as 14 hours, the helicopters and crews successfully set 44 structures inside the existing Calico Rock to Norfolk 161kV transmission line right-of-way.
Air2 crews also transferred all existing shielding and conductors to the new steel poles in preparation for the new wire installation. Then, after the conductors were transferred, all of the old wooden H-frame structures were removed.
Air2 then moved down to the Gillett – AECC transmission line segment and successfully set 87 structures. All work performed over this 3 day period was completed without injury or incident.
In addition to this, AIR2 provided full construction support for all conductor activities on both projects which included hanging conductor/static/optical ground wire (OPGW) blocks, flying rope, clipping conductor/static/OPGW, and installing overhead accoutrements, shield wire (BFD’s, Bird discouragers…Etc.).
A complex project such as this one with extreme right-of-way terrain and challenging environmental constraints was perfect for Helicopter construction methods. This project was a testament to the safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness of helicopters in demanding transmission line construction scenarios.
For more information and another video, please check out How High Flying Linemen Keep Your Power On.
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