December 23 2019, 10:06 AM
It’s not every day you find yourself hovering hundreds of feet in the air, strapped to the side of a helicopter.
But for a group of NB Power powerline technicians, this has been part of their job for the past two weeks.
The task? Installing two types of bird diverters on 25 km of transmission lines stretching from Memramcook to Sackville, New Brunswick. The first diverter is yellow and coiled, and the technicians twist it onto 138 kV lines. The second type looks more like a small black and yellow tent, and it gets snapped onto the highest point on the larger 345 kV lines.
When migratory birds, like ospreys are flying near powerlines, these diverters help keep them safe by helping them see the powerlines easier. By installing these at the highest point, we can divert the birds higher up so they fly over these much taller lines.
It’s not an easy job. But the team are highly skilled and hyper focused on the task at hand. They’re harnessed in to keep them safe while attaching the diverters to the lines.
“It takes a bit of getting used to – especially the first five or 10 minutes … but after that you just go about your business,” says transmission powerline technician, Shawn MacKinnon.
The pilot uses a steady hand to keep the helicopter as still as possible for both the pilot and the powerline technician’s safety. The talent and precision of the pilot makes a big difference in how well the work goes, and in this case, the NB Power crew gave two thumbs up for Mike Maurice of Vortex Helicopters who was at the stick.
“One of the biggest surprises was the size of the skid we stand on. It is not much bigger than the sideboard you would find on a pick-up truck,” MacKinnon said. “But you get use to it. We were lucky in that it’s usually very windy on the Tantramar marshes, but not when we were there. And the downdraft from the rotors wasn’t bad at all. It couldn’t have gone much better.”
Want to see what this work looks like from the sky? Check out the video below.
Last week the team wrapped up installing 3,200 of these diverters in addition to inspecting and maintaining 28 transmission towers. Doing this work by air instead of land minimizes the impact to these wetland areas, while allowing the team to work quickly along the lines to install the diverters.
Other line technicians who worked on the project were Hunter Smith, Grant Donnelly and Jason McKellar. Supervisor Pat Daigle was pleased with the work and noted the crews saw bald eagles, golden eagles and osprey when they were on the job.