Dominion depends on choppers to repair any power glitch

Published: Oct. 15, 2015 at 6:16 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2015 at 6:16 PM EDT
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POWHATAN, VA (WWBT) - During the threat of Hurricane Joaquin, Dominion Virginia Power put a slew of helicopters on standby, ready to make repairs immediately. Dominion contracts with several local helicopter operation companies, like Air2, to ensure a top notch fleet. Repair technicians literally suspend themselves out of a helicopter. Crews reinforce thousands of miles of power lines, throughout the Metro Richmond area. Helicopters are critical in reaching tricky spots ground crews can't reach.

"We can't get a bucket truck up and under the line in order to reach the point where we need to do our work, so it's actually more economical to bring in a helicopter to do the work itself, as opposed to building an entire road and platform underneath," said Steve Eisenrauch, manager of electric transmission, forestry, and line services with Dominion.

Airborne line workers are carefully harnessed to the helicopter. A line worker must undergo at least 8,000 hours of training before they're harnessed into a helicopter and taken up into the air. The pilot monitors the technician's movements, making sure to stabilize the helicopter with every shift.

"Their shoulders, arms and hands tell me where they need to go," said Air2 pilot Nathan Tye.

If a major storm is in the forecast, Dominion makes sure its helicopters are ready to take off before and after the nasty weather. For Hurricane Joaquin, the company had 13 choppers on standby.

"If we do have a big storm coming in, and we know we have some things on the line we would like to make sure are correct prior to that storm, we will bring in the helicopter prior to that also," Eisenrauch continued.

Regularly, Dominion uses helicopters help crews patrol power lines, targeting trouble spots. This prevents problems before they spark.

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