2-Sep-2010 Source: Columbia Helicopters
Columbia Helicopters of Portland, Oregon, has successfully completed one of Nebraska’s most complex and extensive power line reconstruction missions in recent years. This followed a massive storm which raced across Buffalo and Dawson counties, Nebraska, with winds up to 100 miles per hour.
The July 17 storm, which included two reported tornados, destroyed approximately 32 miles of high voltage transmission lines, and demolished 220 transmission towers. The structures were owned by the Columbus-based Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), the State’s largest electricity provider.
Columbia Helicopters’ marketing representative Jerry Martin reported that the helicopter deployed to Nebraska for the reconstruction project was engaged in a logging operation on Vancouver Island in Canada at the time NPPD phoned. “We received a call the day after the storm and arranged to have the helicopter, along with two pilots and six mechanics, onsite in Nebraska when requested, which was August 12,” said Martin.
The helicopter, a twin engine, twin rotor Columbia UT 234 Chinook, has a external load lifting capacity of 28,000 pounds. Flown under contract to the NPPD from August 12-19, the helicopter transported 213 H-frame transmission towers from six “fly” yards to the construction sites. The towers, which are fabricated of a wood laminate, weighed anywhere from 11,000 to 17,000 pounds, and 60 to 115 feet tall, were transported over distances from one quarter to 3.5 miles. Each tower included insulators and wire mounting components.
Martin added that during the contractual period, the aircraft flew seven structures per hour from the assembly yards to the construction sites, and lifted a total of 1.9 million pounds of material. All flying was carried out during daylight hours with hourly fuel stops.
This was not the first time that Columbia Helicopters had worked for the NPPD. “We supplied a helicopter for three days in June of 2008 near Aurora, Nebraska, to help them reconstruct 43 power lines lost to tornado damage,” Martin explained.
Calling the July wind storm the most destructive to strike Nebraska within the past three years, NPPD construction services manager Paul Brune reported that the Columbia helicopter proved to be an indispensable tool in the huge infrastructure rebuilding process.
“We typically use helicopters when access to sites is very difficult, and the job has to be completed within a short time frame,” Brune explained. “Since our goal was to have the power lines back in service by the end of August, the schedule was very strict. However, the helicopter crew completed all the work within the contracted seven days, even though they lost a half day of flying due to weather.”
Brune added that the use of a helicopter in power line construction is a time saver, because it allows the structures to be built at a controlled site with good access. “The helicopter can then lift a fully assembled structure directly to the construction site and lower it to the foundation,” he said. “With a helicopter, you’re not fighting the difficult terrain conditions along a power line right of way that might impact an off-road vehicle.”
About Columbia Helicopters
Columbia Helicopters specializes in providing heavy lift helicopters for construction, logging, wild land firefighting and disaster relief. Two of its Columbia Vertol 107-II helicopters, which are also twin engine, twin rotor models, have been in Louisiana since May, assisting with environmental protection efforts following the catastrophic BP oil well failure in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Initially, the helicopters airlifted sand bags to form a barrier island for protection of beaches and ecologically sensitive areas near the disaster site. More recently, the helicopters have been engaged in the grappling and removal of floating oil containment booms, since the capping of the well.