How GMP gets a bird's-eye view of problem power poles - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How GMP gets a bird's-eye view of problem power poles

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The view from Mike Roy's office on this day is mostly spectacular; he's in a helicopter. But the Green Mountain Power employee doesn't focus on Vermont's beautiful landscapes. He's got his eyes set on high voltage lines.

"I am looking for ... anything that catches my eye that is abnormal," Roy explained.

The lineman has worked for GMP for 43 years. In the last 15, part of his job changed. He now spots troubled transmission lines from the sky.

"I haven't seen any problems at all so far," he said.

GMP does routine aerial surveillance three times year, looking for broken or rotten poles, problem insulators or trees threatening lines. Flyovers happen just after a big storm, as well, with one goal in mind for GMP's 250,000 customers, including its biggest-- IBM in Essex Junction.

"That they don't lose their power. We don't have an unscheduled outage," Roy said. "We are looking for anything that would make us lose our transmission line and bump IBM."

The biggest advantage to using a chopper rather than a traditional truck to do this kind of surveillance is that crews can get to transmission lines in remote areas much faster.

"We can inspect the lines that go cross country 20 times faster in a chopper versus a truck," said Dotty Schnure of GMP. "We can see something about to happen and get out there and do an emergency repair."

Like a problem insulator found on a pole in Burlington. Roy maps out the best way to get to the site while still in the sky.

Just one problem with a major transmission line can cause thousands of outages and affect an entire county's power grid.

In just an hour Roy and his pilot inspected 25 miles of lines, flying just over the tree tops about 150 feet off the ground.

"I've been patrolling up here in Vermont since 1991," pilot Carl Svenson said.

It's tricky maneuvering and requires special flight training.

"Basically so we don't fly into a wire," Svenson said.

GMP contracts for the flight and says it's a small investment that prevents costly repairs and interruption in service.

"We don't want to lose any part of our high lines anywhere," Roy said.

If this upcoming storm is bad enough, GMP says it will dispatch the helicopter again. And the company says it is readying its crews on the ground, as well.

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