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Helo Powerline Construction Flights Halted In CA

Utility Company Did Not Report Two Rotor Strikes By Work Crews

San Diego Gas & Electric is spending $2 billion to build an electrical transmission line between San Diego and Imperial Counties in California and the state of Arizona. It's called the Sunrise Powerlink, and the project involves lots of work for helicopter crews. But a few days after a newspaper revealed two helicopter incidents which were not reported to the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency has halted the project until pilots receive safety reviews.

 

The Associated Press notes the story ran in the San Diego Union Tribune, which reported that helicopters hit a boulder in one incident, and a fencepost in another, in both cases with their tail rotors. Section 830 of the Federal Aviation Regulations state that damage to rotors alone does not rise to the definition of an accident for reporting purposes, and San Diego Gas & Electric is reported to have told the Union Tribune it wasn't clear it had to report it to the state, either.

But the Public Utilities Commission says a report should have been made, and notes that there have been other accidents involving dropped loads due to improper rigging, including three in a recent two-week period. Commission Director Julie Fitch told SDG&E, "The pattern of Sunrise Project helicopter incidents is troubling...and is of serious concern due to the safety risks such incidents impose on the residents...and project personnel."

AP reports the commission has ordered the helicopter work stopped until the pilots get safety reviews. The utility says it will comply, and continue with other parts of the job not involving helicopters.

FMI: www.sdge.com/sunrisepowerlink

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