Helicopters help TVA keep the power on

Helicopters help TVA keep the power on

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TVA employees use a fleet of helicopters to take care of the job. TVA employees use a fleet of helicopters to take care of the job.
The helicopters are used to get a bird's eye view of the more than 16,000 miles of TVA transmission lines. The helicopters are used to get a bird's eye view of the more than 16,000 miles of TVA transmission lines.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Tennessee Valley Authority operates one of the largest electrical transmission systems in North America, providing power to nine million people.

So how does TVA make sure the power stays on?

To get a bird's eye view of the more than 16,000 miles of TVA transmission lines, employees use a fleet of helicopters to take care of the job.

"We have strategically located our fleet across the Tennessee Valley in five different locations," TVA Transmission Operations VP Tracy Flippo said.

TVA officials allowed 6 News to go along on a bi-annual patrol of area lines from the Knoxville Downtown Island Airport.

The officials say it is important for the public to remember the Northeast Blackout. Ten years ago this week 50 million people lost power after a tree came in contact with an electric transmission line in Ohio.

"I want to remind everyone it was a single tree that caused that blackout, so every little thing has the potential of becoming a large thing," Flippo said.

One person who makes sure the power lines stay in good shape is Maintenance Lineman Jason Merritt.

"Looking for vegetation, broken insulators, damaged hard wear, damaged wires," said Merritt, who has been flying for ten years.

You don't have to have great eyesight to see a problem using a helicopter.

"We can get real close to the wire and the structures," Merritt noted.

TVA officials say their helicopters are vital because without them it would take months to check all of the power lines from the ground.

The helicopter fleet is also used whenever there is severe weather to check for damage quickly.

"This is simply a preventative-type patrol before they become a larger problem," Flippo said.

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