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DSW crew uses helicopter, reaches inaccessible lines

 DSW crew changes out cross arms
In January 2014, a combined Desert Southwest and Rocky Mountain line crew used a helicopter to change out cross arms on 16 structures outside Parker, Ariz. As some structures had limited to no ground access, the helicopter helped get the linemen where they needed to go with minimal environmental impact. (Photo by Roger Harris)

by Lisa Meiman

For three weeks in January, combined Desert Southwest and Rocky Mountain crews teamed up with the DSW helicopter pilot to replace dilapidated cross arms on 16 difficult-to-access H-frame structures outside Parker, Ariz.

“The cross arms were in really bad shape and needed to be replaced immediately for the safety of the public and our linemen and the reliability of the system,” said DSW Foreman II Lineman Ronnie Martinez, who led the project. The line was slated for a re-route that has since been delayed, prompting the need for this maintenance work.

The structures along this stretch of the Parker-to-Gila and Parker-to-Blythe No. 1 161-kilovolt transmission lines border a river and highway, leaving little to no room for access roads or pads to park bucket trucks or other heavy vehicles. Five of the 16 structures had no ground access at all, so crews took advantage of Western’s aviation program to get them where they couldn’t go.

“We are currently looking to expand our capabilities in the aviation department, and the Parker cross arm project is a great example of how we can increase system maintenance efficiency in hard to reach locations while reducing environmental impacts and unnecessary risks to our personnel and equipment in rough terrain,” said DSW Helicopter Pilot Dave Scott.

Scott flew the 10 linemen, the replacement cross arms and two baskets of supplies and tools to the bottom of each structure. After unloading, the crews climbed the structure, replaced the cross arms and descended again to be picked up by Scott and lifted to the next structure.

“We saved time and money by not having to do road work or pad work,” said Martinez. “It would have taken months to get road work and pad work done in order to do these cross arm change outs, not to mention the hazards of getting our equipment bucket trucks, line trucks and work trucks to the structures.”

The crews used the hot-stick technique to replace the cross arms, a practice that requires eight people to be performed safely. The need for extra hands is one reason the six Rocky Mountain crew members from Craig and Montrose, Colo., and Cheyenne and Cody, Wyo., joined the job; the other was their proficiency in fall-protection and fall-restriction devices and procedures with many of the visiting linemen certified to train others under Western’s fall protection train-the-trainer program. “The RM crew members trained the DSW crews in fall protection and restriction, which follow our new standard of 100 percent fall protection on wood structures,” said Martinez.

Martinez added that it was beneficial for the two crews to compare techniques and for the RM crews to see how things were done in Phoenix.

The job was considered a resounding success with DSW planning to do another similar job in the near future to replace cross arms on another 16 structures in the area. Martinez shared, “The pilot and Phoenix line crew did an excellent job replacing these 161-kV cross arms in a safe, professional manner and are excited to do it again. I can think of a lot more jobs where we could use the expertise of the helicopter and pilot.”

“Ronnie did an excellent job organizing the whole project,” said Foreman III Lineman Mark DePoe. “It was a really big success.

See more photos at the Parker cross arm change out Flickr setYou are leaving this government site..