Two lifting accidents in four days for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Air-Crane

Two lifting accidents in four days for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Air-Crane

12-Jun-2011 Source:

In December 2009, Erickson Air-Crane announced that San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) company was their first non-governmental sale for the Air-Crane.  In the last week this helicopter has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons with not one but two lifting incidents.  Fortunately the helicopter was not damaged in either event, but the transmission tower loads it was carrying clearly were.

On Tuesday 7th June, a section of a transmission tower being carried by the helicopter fell approximately 200 feet to the ground outside SDG&E’s Plaster City Construction Yard near the shoulder of the Evan Hewes Highway. No one was injured, and while the tower section was damaged when it fell, no other property was damaged.  An investigation into that incident found a short circuit in the wires controlling the hooks that hold up helicopter payloads. After completing repairs and testing the helicopter on June 9, manufacturer Erickson Air-Crane approved the aircraft ready to resume construction work.

Embarassing, yes, but all seemed OK to progress again when at about 8am on Friday 10th, a further incident occurred on the helicopter’s fifth lift of the day, leading to very red faces all round.  At a location approximately two miles southeast of the Plaster City yard, three of the helicopter’s four hooks holding up a tower section released.  Fortunately the load managed to continue hanging from the remaining hook, whereupon the pilot lowered it slowly to the ground and then released it.

“Lifting heavy pieces of equipment via helicopter requires the highest safety standards and procedures and all of our aerial lifts and moves are planned with safety zones below the helicopter for the entire route,” said Michael R. Niggli, SDG&E’s president and chief operating officer. “These recent incidents are unacceptable,” he said. “We hold ourselves and the helicopter manufacturer accountable for safe construction practices and resolve to take steps ensuring that incidents like these will not happen again.”

“Erickson Air-Crane is working very closely with San Diego Gas and Electric to resolve the issue with a goal of maintaining the highest levels of safety and reliability,” said Udo Rieder, chief executive officer, Erickson Air-Crane.

Pending the results of an investigation, SDG&E are unable to confirm whether the incidents are linked.  The FAA and the California Public Utilities Commission have been made aware of the situation.

The helicopter was invovled in the Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile 500-kilovolt electric “superhighway” transmission line to carry renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. With 1,000 megawatt capacity (enough energy for 650,000 homes), it is projecteded to cost $1.883 billion by the time it is put in service in 2012. accident pages for these two incidents

Jeremy Parkin –

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