The job: Aerial power lineman

Larry Graham repairs high-voltage power cables

Larry Graham, Haverfield Aviation

I conduct mid-air inspection and repair of high-voltage power lines. Depending on the task in hand, I will be suspended from a helicopter on either a mini-platform or in a metal basket. You really have to be at the top of your game up there.

The overhead lines that transport electricity require regular maintenance. Given their exposure to the elements, over time they can become damaged by corrosion and wind. Many lines are difficult to access at high altitude or mid-span between pylons, so helicopters are employed.

Ninety per cent of our operations are energised, meaning that the lines continue to carry electricity while we work on them. This is attractive for power companies because shutting them down for maintenance leads to losses in revenue. To safely work with up to 765,000 volts, we wear a conductive metal suit. This allows an electric current to flow around you when you hook up to the line.

The weather conditions must be right. Winds of above 30 miles per hour can become difficult to operate in, but it depends upon the wind’s impact on the helicopter, which must remain stable. It is only as dangerous as you make it up there.

I’ve been doing this for 15 years and lead a team of linemen – numbering between two and six – for Haverfield Aviation. We work across the US and abroad. I feel safer working on the lines than I do driving down the highway.

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