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I've only been afraid of three things: Electricity, heights, and women
September 25, 2007 6:39 AM   Subscribe

High Voltage Cable Inspection
posted by gwint (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that made my barely begun day. Thanks!
posted by Ohdemah at 6:46 AM on September 25, 2007


Wow. This is probably more incredible in IMAX (as what isn't), but when the guy is crawling along and then someone goes by the other way....it's like a science fiction movie about people living on a system of ropes above the trees.
posted by DU at 6:49 AM on September 25, 2007


Previously
posted by phaedon at 6:51 AM on September 25, 2007


No f'ing way.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2007


Sweet merciful Christ.
posted by notsnot at 6:55 AM on September 25, 2007


Wow.
posted by delmoi at 6:56 AM on September 25, 2007


very cool.
posted by milestogo at 6:59 AM on September 25, 2007


I say this with the utmost respect for these guys and this video:

Fuck every single thing about this

*curls up on the floor under my desk*
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:03 AM on September 25, 2007


Amazing.
posted by peeedro at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2007


You probably can only do that job for so many years until one night you wake up at 3AM screaming after all that repressed vertigo hits you all at once. Then you get a desk job.
posted by octothorpe at 7:14 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Then you get a desk job.

In a mine.

Awesome bit of flying too. When he is transferring to the cable, for the most part the hover is rock steady. INpressive as hell.
posted by Brockles at 7:17 AM on September 25, 2007


Or even 'Impressive'.



(note to self: Must stop typing with forehead)
posted by Brockles at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2007


*gasp

Stomach roils. omg! Amazing. Kind of like those guys on skyscraper girders, 50 storeys up. But with Tesla coil zaps thrown in. yikes!

Kept cringing as the helicopter blades got near the cables.

Hope they get serious bucks for their work.
posted by nickyskye at 7:27 AM on September 25, 2007


It's like Metafilter is in a Faraday cage and it's protected from old blog entries.
posted by tellurian at 7:28 AM on September 25, 2007


Egads!
posted by taliaferro at 7:31 AM on September 25, 2007


Hopefully they won't find one of these.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:31 AM on September 25, 2007


It's impressive how nimbly they can crawl along the wires, especially since they must have testicles the size of softballs.
posted by kc8nod at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2007


Holy balls!@!
posted by taliaferro at 7:34 AM on September 25, 2007


After watching that video this morning, its going to be _very_ hard to complain at work today. Thank you.
posted by cascando at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2007


Incredible. It amazes me to learn that such a job even exists. Who knew?
posted by ericb at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2007


That was beautiful. Thanks.
posted by docpops at 7:38 AM on September 25, 2007


I'm lucky enough to be able to enjoy free IMAX viewings here at work. I think I probably walked over to see this one about 5 or 6 times. You know how there's always that one scene in the IMAX movie where you've got the aerial shot, flying low and fast along some sort of water/mountain range? That's what this whole movie was like. And yeah, I was totally amazed by this guy.
posted by ninjew at 7:45 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The helicopter is flying close to treetops, towers and wires, all the things that helicopters usually crash into. Not to mention the other dangers, but that is probably the most dangerous part of it - equipment failure, gust of wind, not much room for error.
posted by stbalbach at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2007


High Voltage Cable Inspection.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:50 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shocking!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:52 AM on September 25, 2007


Helicopters are reasonably safe if you're high enough or fast enough to autogyro from an engine failure. When you're not inside that "envelope" of safe speeds/altitudes, an engine failure means you're hitting the ground like a rock, no matter how good you are. Hovering that precisely takes skill, flying that low and slow for so long takes an eighteen wheeler full of chutzpah.
posted by Skorgu at 7:54 AM on September 25, 2007


Pure joy. And I was pretty bummed out today, too. Thanks for this!

Have to say, also, that person telling the tale really makes it. Love his demeanor.
posted by dreamsign at 7:57 AM on September 25, 2007


Thank you for reviving my vertigo with that post. I have to lie down now.

As for the Faraday cage. Who volunteered to test that out?
posted by Sk4n at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2007


Kewl. That's what I'm gonna be when I grow up.
posted by jouke at 8:10 AM on September 25, 2007


Heh that was awesome.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2007


As noted at YouTube this high-voltage clip is from the IMAX film about helicopters: "Straight Up." I found this montage of clips [7:32] also at YouTube.
posted by ericb at 8:13 AM on September 25, 2007


I watch that, and my first reaction is "I want that job!" Doing it in the rain and cold must really suck, but on a nice day, up in the breeze, sliding along the cables -- I would pay money to be able to do that every day. What sort of qualifications do those guys need, I wonder?
posted by Forktine at 8:18 AM on September 25, 2007


It's not a job for a hot dog.
posted by trip and a half at 8:29 AM on September 25, 2007


I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.
posted by djeo at 8:33 AM on September 25, 2007


I've watched them do something similar over here in the UK, except this was with big pylons carrying six or eight clusters of five wires. They came up close with the helicopter and somehow suspended a metal cage from the wires with two or three men in the cage.

I don't know who got more respect - those guys or the ones who climbed the pylons themselves to paint them. They didn't have the cages but at least the power was turned off.

I assume the arcing we see if the helicopter being brought up to the same potential as the powerlines. What then happens to to this potential? How do the choppers ground them selves before they land...?
posted by twine42 at 8:46 AM on September 25, 2007


Thanks, ericb, I was just about to ask where it came from or if it was just the world's shortest documentary.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:49 AM on September 25, 2007


I grew up in the lower Columbia River Valley, and about a third of the dads that I knew, worked for the Bonneville Power Administration (or BPA as everyone called it).

A good portion of those guys did things like this, or install and maintain generators larger than a suburban house, or "run lines" with enough juice to blow you out of a cherry picker bucket rendering you into a corpse that looked like a large charcoal brickette.

It's a dangerous although very well paid job.

And if you like being outdoors, the views are tremendous.
posted by Relay at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2007


Awesome! Thanks for the link.
posted by dov3 at 8:54 AM on September 25, 2007


Amazing! I wonder if he's from Wichita.
posted by aldurtregi at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2007


Awesome.

I once did a bit of hiking up the side of a hill following an underground gas pipeline, and it ended up crossing some high voltage lines. Both create huge scars on the landscape (in forested areas) but it was cool to actually have that straight line view from the top of the hill.

In our fearful society, these are terrorist threats that actually don't get mentioned much. With a lot of planning and coordination but basically no or very little risk of failure, a decent sized group could take out the power grid quite nicely. There's no practical way to secure thousands and thousands of miles of cable in the middle of the wilderness. What keeps us safe, as I've said before, is that terrorism isn't really that much of a threat and when it is they want spectacles rather than actually crippling the country.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


What then happens to to this potential?

I note that the lineman reaches out with his pole to the helicopter departing and more current passes between. While I can't figure out why this would result in the helicopter releasing potential back in the direction of the grid, I can't think of another reason for this action. Somebody with more info??
posted by dreamsign at 9:26 AM on September 25, 2007


This is beautiful. Thanks.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:10 AM on September 25, 2007


Holy fuck, Science! scares the hell out of me sometimes. I mean, I fully understand the idea of why he's not dead, but it's still insane to me.

Mainly because while he is completely safe, it would only take such a very small mistake to have him end several different kinds of badly.

Still, awesome job to talk about at the bar:

Guy 1: I'm a lawyer, I handle stressful situations everyday.

Guy 2: I'm a firefighter, I put myself in harms way every day.

Guy 3: I'm a high voltage cable inspector.

Guys 1 and 2: Woah! Lemme buy you a drink, man!
posted by quin at 11:04 AM on September 25, 2007


What’s it like to repair a live powerline from a helicopter? Well, you start by putting on a wearable Faraday cage:
The lineman and pilot put on hot suits with hoods...

A hot suit looks very much like a burlap sack fashioned into a flight suit. Spider explained, “These are to take and distribute the flow of electricity over them as if they were working in a steel cage. This was a theory developed in the late 1880’s by Michael Faraday. He theorized that if you could suspend a man in mid air inside of a steel cage electricity wouldn’t bother him.” What Spider takes for granted after years of working around energized lines is the distinct sensation of pins and needles that one feels while wearing the hot suit. The electricity is literally buzzing all around you.
More about helicopter live-line work at Transmission & Distribution World.

Without these guys, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.
posted by cenoxo at 11:12 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


That last line is the icing on the cake of an awesome video.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:32 AM on September 25, 2007


Wouldn't his giant steel balls conduct electricity?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:55 AM on September 25, 2007


My cousin used to do this. Before that he was a recon Marine. The guy just has no bottom when it comes to stress. Seen him in arguments and the disparity is amazing. You know how incrementally people get louder when trying to make a point or gesture or something? Nope. Not my cousin. Even keel the whole way. And it’s not like he’s just holding back this tremendous rage, it’s just not there. He doesn’t get upset at all. Rolls off like water off a duck’s back. Really it’s infuriating.
Doesn’t surprise me he did this for so long. Personally high tension wires scare the crap out of me.

“...they want spectacles rather than actually crippling the country.” - posted by TheOnlyCoolTim

Sure. There’s a difference between sabotage and terrorism.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 PM on September 25, 2007


Props to the pilots: in this less dramatic Agrotors Helicopter Power Line Maintenance YT video (shot in Pennslyvania), they're not working as high, but note the wind buffeting and how close — exaggerated by the camera's POV — the blades are to the lines.

In France, EDF Services et Travaux Héliportés does live-line maintenance with a twin-engine helicopter, two pilots, and a lineman in a suspended bucket.
posted by cenoxo at 12:14 PM on September 25, 2007


"Straight Up" is pretty good, but this is, by far, the best part of the movie.

It's available on Netflix, btw.
posted by bshort at 1:16 PM on September 25, 2007


Also, what I want to know, but what isn't made clear in the video, is what kind of maintenance is he actually doing? Is he replacing some part? Is he tightening some bolt?
posted by bshort at 1:19 PM on September 25, 2007


A friend and I once decided that possibly the most awful way to die would be driving off a very high bridge into a glacial lake in a car full of enormous spiders, but now I'm thinking that for real horror, helicopters and electrocution would have to figure into it somehow.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:48 PM on September 25, 2007


I assume the arcing we see if the helicopter being brought up to the same potential as the powerlines. What then happens to to this potential? How do the choppers ground them selves before they land...?

There is no 'bringing up to potential' with an AC power line, since the instantaneous voltage can be anything between +/- 1.414 x Vline. Also, it looks as if there is an ongoing current between the line and the helicopter, not just a spark when they are first brought together..

The arcs you see don't represent much current - I'm not sure how to judge, but much less than an amp, I guess. Also, once an arc starts, air becomes ionized, and even relatively small voltage differential will sustain it. Helicopters can generate a great deal of static electricity. It must be the static generating ability which is sustaining the current. Of course it isn't 'static' anymore, but the result of rubbing a large surface area (blades) against a lot of air molecules is still happening, and I guess that is providing a small leakage path to ground..
posted by Chuckles at 3:55 PM on September 25, 2007


There is no 'bringing up to potential' with an AC power line

That is a damned good point...
posted by twine42 at 4:14 PM on September 25, 2007


I suspect one of the not-obvious hazards of this job may be ozone inhalation. I remember reading a statistic in an Isaac Asimov book (and I hope my memory is correct) that ozone has 300 times greater affinity for hemoglobin than does carbon monoxide. By any account, it's poisonous stuff.

Those large sparks you see and hear generate a great deal of ozone, which, contrary to what some believe, does not smell like the fresh air of a thunderstorm.

Ozone smells like Kinkos.
posted by Tube at 4:49 PM on September 25, 2007


I actually toyed with the idea of applying for this job. I figure there can't be much competition for it, it must pay outrageously well, and it would certainly challenge hell out of my twin fears of heights and high voltage electricity.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on September 25, 2007


I note that the lineman reaches out with his pole to the helicopter departing and more current passes between. While I can't figure out why this would result in the helicopter releasing potential back in the direction of the grid, I can't think of another reason for this action. Somebody with more info??

I think this is so that any current surges through the stick rather than the nearest limb to the helicopter. I don't know that there would be enough current to weld the surface of the hot suit, but why risk it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:44 PM on September 25, 2007


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