T&D World Magazine

Helicopter Work Speeds Nebraska Line Reconstruction

The Nebraska Public Power District is pleased to report its transmission crews and hired contractors have reconstructed nearly 60 percent of NPPD’s transmission system in central Nebraska damaged by the New Year’s ice storm.

Five hundred and sixty of 1,136 wood and steel structures have been repaired, and 806 of more than 1,000 miles of line that were out of service at the height of the storm are now energized.

“Steadily - mile by mile, structure by structure - we are rebuilding our system,” said General Manager of Operations Barry Campbell. “Several of the line segments we have yet to repair were among the most damaged. One line section has 314 structures that need to be rebuilt.”

More than 300 contract workers are on site at various locations preparing equipment, framing structures, and readying the locations for new structure construction.

To expedite some of the work, NPPD uses small helicopters to remove and replace shield wire insulators at the tops of the structures. The effort from the air takes half the time and costs half as much as completing the work with a ground crew.

“Insurance is not available to utilities to repair or replace transmission infrastructure against storm damage,” said Campbell. “Finding cost effective solutions such as this, ultimately reduces the overall costs of the reconstruction effort and is extremely beneficial to getting the lines back in service by summertime.”

Flown by one pilot, the small helicopters carry two technicians who work together to replace the shield wire and insulators. The pilot’s job is to hover close enough to the structure to give access to the technicians, one of whom hands tools and materials to the other. The second technician replaces the equipment. It typically takes approximately five minutes to replace one insulator, so the helicopters do not linger at each structure for long. The work is also weather-dependent, with wind and precipitation often adjusting schedule.

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