FirstEnergy uses helicopter to build power line over Pennsylvania Turnpike

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — FirstEnergy crews used helicopters on Tuesday to build a power line over the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the North Hills.

“We are using a crew today that's a highly skilled workforce that uses a helicopter to pull an electric wire across the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Doug Colafella of FirstEnergy said.

The workers are experts at stringing and connecting overhead wires to 100-foot transmission towers. To complete the task, the helicopters hovered close to the towers to drop off and pick up workers and equipment from the ground.

“This work being done here today is part of a four-year program at FirstEnergy called ‘Energizing the Future’ that focuses on enhancing electric service for our customers,” Colafella said.

The Adams-Pine Transmission Project is a 7-mile, $11 million upgrade of an existing transmission line aimed at enhancing service reliability for customers in Warrendale, Wexford, Seven Fields Borough, Adams and Pine townships and other North Hills communities.

Colafella said aerial construction is more efficient and helps minimize the project's environmental impact.

“Instead of needing a bucket truck, we can do all the work from the sky, with workers actually able to climb up the helicopter and do the work they need and fly on to the next tour,” he said.

Pilot Chris Sanders said it’s a practice that’s starting to take off.

“The utility work with this helicopter is very common now, and we have three we use all over the country to help put power lines in,” he said.

Sanders’ team is based in Virginia. He said the work might not be for everyone, but once someone gets used to it, it’s a smooth operation.

“Once you get used to it and understand the process and what we do and how it's supposed to be as an end result, it's pretty easy,” he said.