Hydro line patrols

Ontario Hydro used a 47G-2 to do their line patrols in northwestern Ontario. The G-2 was chased by a maintenance vehicle with all of the needed tools and gear – depending on the season – for the engineer accompanying the aircraft. While the helicopter could position cross-country, the truck was forced to follow the roads to its destination, sometimes taking two days to catch up. Each day, the helicopter would wait for the truck carrying the engineer to arrive. Without that truck, the helicopter didn’t move.

Beyond the normal weather occurrences over such a diverse area, unique geography combined with the lake effect from Lake Superior could cause an aircraft to be weathered in for days at a time if it overnighted on Superior’s lengthy north shore. This is caused any time the wind blows off the lake from the south or southwest, rolling in fog and low cloud. If conditions are right, that wind can sometimes last for a couple of days, and you can end up weathered in for days at a time on the Wawa-Thunder Bay leg of the hydro patrol. If the scheduled overnight stop was Marathon – and it was – you could almost count on it.

During all of this, the Ontario Hydro pilot and engineer worked only five days a week. On Friday, before every weekend, they would take a commercial flight to get themselves back to their base in Toronto. Depending on the crew’s location when it got close to Friday, it could mean a two-day drive to get to Thunder Bay to catch the Toronto-bound flight. On Monday’s return flight, there would be a two-day drive to get back to the helicopter. Do the math, and out of 14 days, only four or five days at most might be spent actually patrolling the line.

The result? It would take six to eight weeks at a minimum for Ontario Hydro to complete a line patrol tour, which included the area west from Wawa to Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Red Lake and Pickle Lake. In 1973, Ontario Hydro considered that a bare minimum amount of time required to complete a successful patrol of their high voltage lines across the region.

The Bell 47G-2 burned 16 gph U.S. and had a capacity of 42 gallons.

4 thoughts on “Hydro line patrols

  1. doug potts

    My first initial training flight was given to me by Jim Boyd at Canadore’s Barn hangar in 1972…was not long after that …Jim had a flameout on his 500 doing line patrol…aircraft was wrote off…I use to have a chunk of one of the blades that he gave me….pottsy

    Reply
    1. Twolane Post author

      Viking’s line patrol contract with Hydro covered the area starting at the Manitoba border and ending at Wawa (or perhaps Manitouwadge), if I remember correctly. I don’t have my log book with me right now, but I recall doing some 47 work on the high-tension line that runs from Wawa to Marathon just after it was constructed.

      Reply
      1. doug potts

        I did some line patrol out of t-bay…we were heading for wawa…some pretty big hills on that line…we had to turn around about 3/4 of the way to wawa due to fog rolling in off lake superior…on the way back the winds got up to 50 mph…was glad to get back on the ground…pottsy

        Reply
        1. Twolane Post author

          On the north shore, any time the wind is out of the south or southwest, fog tends to roll in and make it hell to do a line patrol anywhere east of Nipigon. I recall following a line in the fog to get back to YQT after a short job. I had to turn around and overnight at Terrace Bay.

          Reply

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