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Flying with the Western Power Distribution Unit September 2014

Last week I went flying with the Western Power Distribution Unit. They use 4 EC135P1s to patrol the electricity posts and cables looking for faults. They are also called out in times of trouble to discover where the fault is, and, in the case of storms, to help get power back to the people! (Well, electric power anyway!)

It is fascinating work. The pilot flies with an observer, who has a laptop with a dedicated computer programme on which he can mark the faults and send them up to the server to be examined by the company managers. There can be as many as 50 faults on each electric pole, and there are also often problems caused by vandals and the unwary. For example, people try to shoot the insulators! Fishermen get their rods and lines caught in the wires, trees grow into the lines and swans and other birds accidentally fly into them… there is a lot of work to be done here.

I had a fascinating day seeing how useful the EC135 is as a utility tool. It was so nimble and the flying was so much fun I (in the back) wanted to lean forward and ask for a ‘go’!

For more on the job of the electric cable pilots see the Autumn issue of Helicopter Life magazine.



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