Category Archives: Power Lines

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Sydney Airport flights grounded by air traffic control outage

Sydney Airport flights grounded by air traffic control outage

By Ofonime Essien

Sydney Airport outage

Passengers have been told air traffic control had suffered a “power outage”. Photo: Bloomberg

An outage at Sydney Airport air traffic control has grounded flights to and from the country’s largest airport.

The systems were down from about 5.20am Monday, as thousands of passengers converged on the airport at the start of school holidays.

All flights out of Sydney have been delayed until further notice.

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Some arrivals have been able to land, but all services to Sydney from Melbourne have not been boarded, with passengers told air traffic control had suffered a “power outage”.

Domestic flights heading to Sydney from all destinations are being delayed.

Passengers at Sydney were being advised to board their planes but then had to wait on the tarmac. A number of flights were cancelled.

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Airline staff said only 15 planes could land per hour. Under normal circumstances, a maximum of 80 aircraft arrivals and departures per operational hour is allowed.

About three hours after the outage, planes were gradually allowed to take off from Sydney but passengers were advised to expect delays.

It is believed the problem relates to the flight planning system which feeds into the radar picture. Without it, air traffic controllers cannot distinguish which plane is which.

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An Airservices Australia spokeswoman confirmed it was suffering “technical issues” but could not specify what had gone wrong.

The government body, which manages airspace across the country, was still able to “manage air traffic safely”, she said.

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said passengers should check with their airline to see if their flight is affected.

A Melbourne Airport spokesman said that they did not know of any cancellations, but confirmed that some flights were being held due to the outage at Sydney airport.

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A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia said: “All flights at Sydney Airport are currently grounded until further notice due to an air traffic control issue. We are working to have all guests on their way as quickly and safely as possible once the issue is rectified. We will be contacting those guests who may be impacted but we encourage all guests to check the flight status page.”

Passengers on a Virgin flight waiting to depart Sydney were told that the outage had affected email communication as well as the radar. The plane’s captain told passengers flight plans were being submitted by fax before being processed manually by air traffic control staff.

Grounded passengers took to social media to express their frustration with the lack of information being provided about flights.

(WA Today)


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Aerial Power Lines Patrol / Inspection

Aerial Power Lines Patrol / Inspection

By Ofonime Essien

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”8″ gal_title=”Power Line”]

Photo: Hayward Helicopters

History and Purpose

Helicopters have been in use to support the utility industry since 1947 when the first civilian certified aircraft became available in the United States (US). As the aircraft became more capable and reliable, their use expanded and continues to expand to provide cost effective support. Operators conducting aerial work in support of the utility industry encounter different hazards because of the various types of operational envelopes or flight profiles, terrain, infrastructure, and weather environments. At the same time, aerial work involved with the utility industry exposes aircraft and operators to the same hazards of any aircraft that operates at low altitudes and slow speeds.

Related: Power Lines Are Deadly

Aerial Work Power Line Patrols

Routine power line patrols provide cost effective means of visually inspecting electric utility’s structures, conductors, and identifying encroachment of man-made or naturally occurring elements that pose hazards to the reliability of the system. In conducting routine power line patrols it must be clearly understood the aircraft is “flying through” the wire environment, which greatly increases the potential for the aircraft to collide with the infrastructure or terrain. Aerial work like this requires a minimum crew of an observer and a pilot to effectively and safely perform the work. The aircraft may be operated at speeds of 20 to 70 knots of forward speed along the power line right-of-way depending on the type of structures and voltage of the power line.

Generally, the industry practice is to operate the aircraft slightly above and one to two rotor discs of distance to the side of the power line so that an observer can visually inspect the power line, structures, and right-of-way. By maintaining the appropriate distance and speed, the observer is able to visually inspect the structures, insulators, and conductors. Properly positioned the visual perception is one in which the structures and conductors are passing by the observers line of sight at a slow walk allowing the observer time to inspect.

However, at 20 knots, the aircraft has a rate of closure of 35.2 feet per second or at 70 knots a rate closure of 123.2 feet per second to an obstacle in its flight path. In order to mitigate the potential risk of a collision the crew must identify a potential collision hazard and make corrective actions well in advance, if not, there is very limited action that a pilot can take to avoid a collision. At these rates of closure, it requires the crews to exercise extreme concentration, maintain situational awareness, be knowledgeable of their area of operations, maintain effective communications, and establish clear roles and responsibilities.

Aerial work, whether it is power line or pipeline patrol, construction or repair work, requires effective communications, due diligence to maintain situational awareness and an understanding that the pilot, observer and/or mission crew are team. They are reliant on each other to effectively communicate observed hazards or safety concerns as they are noted. Each person onboard has a role, responsibility and authority to make the other team member(s) aware of any hazard or safety concern and to effectively communicate that concern to the other team member.

Each person on-board should be delegated “stop-work authority” by the operator or owner. It is essential to safety management of risks that if even if one team member has a concern, then work should be stopped, it should be! Evaluate the situation and determine if passive or active safety measures can be instituted to mitigate the hazard or safety concern before initiating work again.

Identified Hazards (Hazards Associated With Power Line Patrol)

The following hazards were identified that require mitigation to manage the risk to acceptable levels.

  • Collision with static wires, guy wires or conductors;
  • Cantenary or suspension cables
  • Collision with structures or towers;
  • Controlled flight into terrain
  • Engine failure at low altitude
  • Settling with Power
  • Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness
  • Tail rotor failure at low altitude
  • Bird Strikes
  • Loss of situational awareness due to sun, low light, or haze
  • Fatigue related stress resulting in “complacency” or “over confidence”

Inspection and Patrols

Aerial patrols are performed on power lines to identify major problems requiring maintenance.

Examples of these problems are broken or damaged insulators, structure damage, right-of-way access problems, encroachment problems, weather damage, and emergency outages. Each mile of power line is flown on a periodic basis to identify such problems.

The illustration below is an example of minimum clearances:

Aerial Power Lines Patrol









Photo: Helicopter Association International

Transmission lines are susceptible to many problems as a result of weather, age, vandalism, etc.

Some problems are more serious than others are. Problems should be classified into two categories–primary and secondary.

  1. Primary problems are those that may result in an imminent outage or pose a serious threat to the safety and/or welfare of the public. If the damage, in the observer’s view, poses a serious threat, the observer should immediately notify the Utility.
  1. Secondary problems are those that may not result in an imminent outage and/or not pose a serious threat to the safety or welfare of the public. These problems can be put on an inspection report to rectify at a later date. The observer must use discretion in classifying problems as primary or secondary. Listed below are problems usually considered as primary or secondary:

Primary problems:

(a) Broken or split cross arms. (May also be secondary)

(b) Downed or loose conductor

(c) Downed or loose static line

(d) Severely damaged conductor

(e) Severely damaged insulators

(f) Foreign material in line (bird nests, wires, shrubs, etc.)

(g) Lines that cross over and under other lines coming into contact with each other because of ice loading, wind damage, etc.

(h) Severe structure damage

(i) Equipment operation (farm equipment, cranes) under the line not within safe clearances

(Note: In cases like these, the helicopter may land so the observer can notify the operator or owner of the hazard.)

Secondary Problems:

(a) Loose X-braces

(b) Structure damage (leaners caused by farm equipment or animals, burnt wood poles, woodpecker damage)

(c) Right-of-way access problems

(d) Right-of-way and/or structure erosion

(e) Loose or damaged guy wires (May also be primary)

(f) Loose or damaged structure ground wires

(g) Loose or damaged dampers

(h) Loose or missing hardware

(i) Missing or faded structure numbers

Electric Utility Systems and Patrol Procedures

1. General. Develop a working knowledge and a basic understanding of the transmission system facilities is necessary so that the worker understands the reason for work methods employed and to avoid the hazards that are present at the work site.

In addition, it provides a pilot and crewmember the ability to forecast where to expect wires rather than total reliance on visual contact with the wire itself. It is important to recognize that electric utility systems are not static, they are dynamic and constantly changing so pilots and crewmen need to maintain vigilance even on systems they may have become familiar.

2. Knowledge of Transmission Facilities

a. Circuit Voltage: Crews need to know how to identify the circuit being worked and its voltage, by use of various aids such as geographical circuit prints, insulation design, proper marking by circuit signs and/or structure markings.

b. Minimum Approach Distances: To avoid potential electrical shock, crews should observe minimum approach distances.

c. Structures: The worker needs to have a basic knowledge of various transmission structures including:

  • Lattice types;
  • Steel poles types;
  • Wood pole; and
  • Composite and concrete poles.

d. Types of Insulators: Pilots and crews need to have knowledge of various types of insulators, including:

  • Ceramic suspension;
  • Ceramic post;
  • Glass; and
  • Non-ceramic (NCI).

e. In the US, according to the “National Electric Safety Code” higher-voltage lines SHOULD cross over the top of lower-voltage lines. It is an imperative for the pilot and crewmembers to know what voltage is being patrolled in order to know what to expect above and below the line.

3. When patrolling an unfamiliar system or for the first time:

a. Begin with the highest voltage in the system. This provides the ability to observe wire crossings from the top down.

b. To enhance the quality and safety of the patrol, the pilot or observer must be familiar with the system being patrolled. There should never be a circumstance that a pilot and observer be dispatched to perform a patrol when neither is familiar with the system. Prior to commencing work the pilot and observer must be briefed using maps, system photos, and other information necessary to perform the patrol safely.

c. The pilot must concentrate on flying the aircraft that includes obstacle avoidance such as identification of wire crossings, antennae, and sensitive areas while providing the observer the best view possible to safely inspect the line. Observer emphasis should focus on developing aerial observation skills and techniques rather than achieving quality, thorough inspection. The pilot and observer should strive to work as a team.

d. The likelihood of seeing a wire in time to take evasive action is much greater at slower airspeeds. Keep it slow.

e. The lower the voltage of the lines being patrolled, the more skills will be required. The greater complexity of the lower-voltage systems increases the patrol workload.

f. Request that the utility provide current circuit maps and information on new lines and construction projects.

g. Work with the utility in the development of a program for marking power lines, wire crossings, and identifying hazards to flight on the mapping resources provide. Remember that electric utilities are not the only organizations that may install wire hazards.

Source: Helicopter Association International UPAC Guide, 2015


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Power Lines Are Deadly

Power Lines Are Deadly

By Ofonime Essien

power line

Flying into wires, cables and other objects is by far the number one cause of fatal accidents in helicopter.

Pilots must constantly be on the alert for this very real hazard.

Watch for the towers, you will not see the wires in time.

READ: Flying Near Power Lines

Fly directly over the towers when crossing power lines.

Allow for the smaller, usually invisible grounding wire(s) which are well above the larger more visible wires.

Constantly scan the higher terrain on either side of your flight path for towers.

Always maintain 500 feet AGL except during take-off and landing.

By always flying above 500 feet AGL, you can virtually eliminate the primary cause of fatal accidents.

Source: Robinson Helicopter

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Flying Near Power Lines

Flying Near Power Lines

By Ofonime Essien



Main power lines are easy to see, but when flying in their vicinity you must take the time to look for what is really there and then use safe procedures. Remember, the human eye is limited, so if the background landscape does not provide sufficient contrast then you will not see a wire or cable. Although hydro structures are big and generally quite visible, a hidden danger exists in the wires around them.

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The main conductor cluster is made up of several heavy wires. These heavy, sagging conductors are about two inches in diameter, and very visible, so they tend to distract one from seeing the guard or lightning protection wires, which are of much smaller diameter.
Guard wires do not sag the way the main conductors do and are difficult to pick out even in good visibility. The only way to be safe is to avoid the span portion of the line and always cross at a tower, maintaining a safe altitude, with as much clearance as possible.

  • When following power lines, remain on the right-hand side relative to your direction of flight and watch for cross lines and guy cables.
  • Expect radio and electrical interference in the vicinity of power lines.
  • For operational low flying, do an overflight and map check first.
  • Leave yourself an “out”—cross at 45 degrees to the line.
  • Reduce speed in low visibility (for VFR—two mile visibility; clear of cloud; 165 kt max.).

Warning – Intentional low flying is hazardous. Transport Canada advises all pilots that low flying for weather avoidance or operational requirements is a high-risk activity.

Source: Transport Canada

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