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An Exciting Ride to Work: Helicopter Used to Complete Transmission Project in Toledo


Workers on a FirstEnergy transmission project in Toledo, Ohio, consider construction projects and white knuckles the highlights of their day, which begins and ends dangling from a helicopter 300 feet above the Maumee River.

As part of its commitment to delivering safe, reliable electricity to its customers, FirstEnergy recently replaced a mile-long section of 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line that spans the Maumee River about a mile south of where it enters Lake Erie. 

After months of engineering and planning, the job will be completed in about five weeks with help from a helicopter contractor and workers who contend their favorite part of the project is the ride to and from the jobsite. 

A helicopter was used to support pulling the new wires into place through the 320-foot towers on either side of the river and on to the tower at the job site at Detweiler Park, just west of the river (see above video of work being done). The new wires are larger in diameter than the wires they replaced, allowing them to carry a greater load while exhibiting less sag under heavy loads. Achieving the proper tension was critical, as the 2,300-foot section that crosses the river must maintain 160 feet of clearance over the water. 

Materials, including 800-lb. insulator assemblies, tools and other items necessary to complete the job were attached to lines hanging from the helicopter and flown to the work sites on the towers. Workers were flown to and from the top of the towers using the same method – harnessed to a line under the helicopter. 

Before helicopters were available for this work, the labor of climbing the towers and hoisting all the necessary tools and materials would have added substantial time and risk exposure to the job. It also would have substantially complicated human factors – from climbing time to providing appropriate facilities on the tower for food, water and restroom breaks that didn’t require interrupting the work for hours of climbing down and back up. 

The $3 million project, part of FirstEnergy’s “Energizing the Future” transmission investment program, was completed with the installation of large colorful spheres, called floaters, on the lines as a visual warning to aircraft that there are high-voltage lines in the area. The new line adds system durability throughout the most industrial areas in Toledo and northwestern Ohio.

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