Have you ever seen a lineman fly?
With special permission, Southern California Edison (SCE) linemen recently attached GoPro cameras to their helmets and took flight to replace aging insulators on a transmission line near Corona, California. The towers traverse the Santa Ana Mountains and help carry electricity from Menifee to Anaheim.
There’s no road nearby and the land is steep with dense forest. A method of transportation, called human external cargo, allows linemen to be suspended by a rope attached to a helicopter and lifted to the site.
“The towers we’re working on are about two miles from our landing zone on the side of a mountain,” said Greg Lowery, an SCE lineman. “Our helicopter pilots are top notch and they set our guys on the tower with pinpoint precision.”
Before taking flight, the entire crew and helicopter pilots met for a tailboard, or safety discussion, to go over specifics of the day’s work. They discuss potential hazards, the weather forecast and the nearest hospital in case of an emergency. After the tailboard, each crew member checks their own harness to make sure it’s ready for flight. They then do a buddy check on another lineman to be extra safe.
Eight linemen were assigned to the job and paired up for the two-minute flight. The crew was flown up to the tower, followed by their equipment and new insulators.
So what’s it like flying below a helicopter on your commute to work?
“It’s a rush you can’t explain,” said Lowery. “It’s just like flying through the air like a bird — a real thrill.”