Helicopter propels power line

An Erickson Aircrane helicopter arrived in Terrace, B.C. July 8 and was at work the next day on the Northwest Transmission Line

An Industrial accident Saturday morning shut down the installation of the Northwest Transmission Line towers for the day, with early reports saying that a worker lost a finger.

Before the mishap occurred production using a massive helicopter had gotten off to a faster-than-expected start. An Erickson Aircrane helicopter arrived in Terrace July 8 and was at work the next day following safety training sessions with crews from Valard, the transmission line’s main construction contractor.

Nearly 900 of the towers will be lifted into place along the 344km transmission line route over several work periods between now and the fall. The steel hydro towers vary in weight between 12,000 and 17,000 pounds, a task the Aircrane can accomplish because of its 20,000 pound lift capacity.

In all, the Northwest Transmission Line will consist of just over 1,100 towers, bringing electricity into the northwestern section of B.C. to spur industrial development.

While not exactly fuel efficient – the Aircrane burns 500 gallons of fuel an hour – it was seen as the most efficient way to lift preconstructed towers quickly to their foundation sites. Before its trip to Terrace on July 8 the aircraft was being used for a coastal logging job in southern B.C.

The goal is to lift as many as 20 towers a day with a goal set of placing 160 towers in this first period of helicopter work.

Crews began working north of BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation just south of Terrace. Once all the towers are in place, Valard linemen will work with smaller helicopters to string the power lines from tower to tower, with completion of the line scheduled for Spring 2014.

Lakelse Air is supplying smaller helicopters to fly about 50 Valard workers in and out of the tower installation sites.

They were on hand when the Aircrane touched down for safety training related to working with and around both it and smaller helicopters.

“We want to make sure about the hazards … lots of people are local and haven’t had exposure to this kind of work,” said Valard safety specialist Hayley McNeil of the training.