BG&E's utility poles drop from the sky Helicopter eases upgrading of line near Finksburg CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

September 01, 1993|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Staff Writer

Most would be elated with one hole-in-one in a lifetime, but Bob Boyd of Perkasie, Pa., sank four in 18 minutes yesterday.

Mr. Boyd was not playing golf. He's the pilot of a Sikorsky helicopter that set 17 utility poles for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. near Finksburg for a new electrical transmission line.

The utility company is upgrading a 33,000 volt transmission line to a 115,000-volt transmission line between Finksburg and Westminster to meet increased demand in the Westminster area.

Frank Wanken, a BG&E corporate affairs officer, said the 17 poles placed by the helicopter yesterday were in wetlands and other areas not easily accessible to ground vehicles.

In one location near Patapsco, BG&E would have had to build a road through a wooded area on a steep hill to transport the 75- to 95-foot steel or wooden poles.

Mr. Wanken said the helicopter operation was planned with the precision of a military operation, with ground teams coordinating timing with the helicopter crew.

Mr. Boyd, employed by the Carson Co., handles a helicopter that's capable of lifting 11,000 pounds with delicacy. It lifted each of the utility poles from a site on Ridge Road and flew them to the pre-drilled sites.

The pilot lined up the poles with the holes by looking out a bubble window to his left and talking by radio with a BG&E worker on the ground.

The 95-foot Douglas fir poles used in the project weigh more than 7,500 pounds each, said Mr. Wanken. The poles come from Washington state, from the only forest in North America where Douglas firs grow that tall.

Similar steel poles used weigh 4,500 pounds each. They are used for strength where there is a severe angle or bend in the direction of the transmission line, Mr. Wanken said.

Once he maneuvered the helicopter over each hole, Mr. Boyd had to hover some 200 feet above the existing 33,000-volt line and lower the poles between the electric wires -- through gaps only four feet wide -- into the holes.

During one of the "plantings" yesterday, Mr. Boyd lifted a wooden pole below the helicopter, carried it about half a mile, located the drop site, hovered until the pole stopped swinging in mild wind, and lowered the pole into the hole.

The procedure, which took about two minutes, was repeated at each of the 17 sites as ground crews scurried from one hole to another to keep up with the pilot.

The use of a helicopter to install poles is relatively new in this area, Mr. Wanken said. The procedure yesterday was videotaped by a BG&E cameraman and witnessed by several company officials and visitors, who watched from a nearby hill.

Mr. Wanken said yesterday's operation cost the company $20,000 for the helicopter, a small part of the $4.5 million, 9-mile project.

The new transmission line is expected to be completed by December.

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