Flying 5,200 Meters High Above the Earth!

from:China Southern Power Griddate:2019-12-09

Yunnan Power Grid Company’s Helicopter Inspection in High Altitude Areas

Traveled A Distance Equivalent to Four Circumferences of the Earth in 13 Years

Flying 5,200 Meters High Above the Earth!-1

Yunnan - On November 9, inspectors of the Yunnan Power Grid Company Helicopter Inspection Center set off from Shangri-La, a city of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where they inspected 220-kV Jiangang Line Two, reaching a record high altitude of 4,300 meters, at that time a momentous height for helicopter inspection in China.

But it was 17 days earlier - at 8:30 a.m. on October 23 - that a helicopter hovered above a base tower in the outskirt of Xuanwei, a city of Yunnan province … a county-level city in the northeast of Yunnan, bordering Guizhou province to the east. Inside the cabin, Zhou Bin, an inspector from Yunnan Power Transmission & Transformation Engineering Corporation wrote, “at 8:31 a.m., we arrived at Tower No.1 of 500-kV Rentong Line One and started our work.”

Within a few minutes, Zhou completed the inspection with Sky Eye 3X infrared thermometer, binnacles, cameras and other devices. This operation was his 820th helicopter inspection operation since he began this high-flying role in Year 2007 where to date he says, “I have flown more than 30,000 kilometers for these critically important inspection.”

Zhou’s recorded 30,000 kilometer journeys only account for 1/8 of the total distance of the company’s helicopter inspections.

Since Yunnan Power Grid Company officially launched helicopter inspections in October 2006, these safety and technical operations have been performed successfully in spite of complex landforms, dramatic altitude difference and ever-changeable weather.

To date, the total distance of flight inspections has, in 13 years, topped 240,000 kilometers … equivalent to four circumferences of the Earth.

With total distance of inspection from 2,284 km in 2006 to 495,000 km in Year 2018, and an altitude from less than 2 km to 5.2 km, the Yunnan Power Grid Company has made significant breakthroughs in enhancing its basic management and technological innovations, smashing records for China’s high altitude helicopter inspection.

The Company’s Maiden Flight Over Plateaus - A Pioneering Effort of High-Altitude Helicopter Inspections

“The average altitude in Yunnan province is more than 1,900 meters. As a result, 80% of the company’s 1,600+ transmission lines of 110 kV or above are located in precipitous mountains where weather conditions are very tough,” said Huang Junbo, head of the Helicopter Inspection Office.

He said, “the obvious advantage of using helicopters in high-altitude areas are that inspectors can identify deficiencies that it would be difficult see from ‘ground level’ such as tower corrosion, thunderstruck lines and overhead ground wire breakage, by means of visual, apparatus-assisted and autodetected inspections.

Concurrently, with helicopters flying at a speeds ranging from between 20 to 30 kph, 80 to 100 base towers can be inspected within a short two hour time span.

But with advantages go the challenges.

Shi Xingbo, a veteran pilot of the Yunnan Power Grid Company who has amassed more than eight years of flight experience (3,800+ operating hours), shared his feelings about being an aerial electrical inspector.

He said, “what strikes me most are the many challenges brought by the changeable air flows in the mountains as a result of the area’s landforms that are more complex than those among that plains. In Year 2006, when the Company just initiated helicopter inspections, in China there were few areas where helicopter inspections could be operated at an elevation of more than 2,000 meters, not to mention conducting operations in areas with altitudes exceeding 4,000 meters.”

He added that “it is fair to say that there was zero hands-on experience of helicopter inspection over plateaus at that time.”

During the early days of launching helicopter visual inspections, the Yunnan Power Grid Company cooperated with other institutes and hired many third-party pilots. The Company then purchased helicopters, trained helicopter inspectors, and conducted its own research on high-altitude helicopter inspections.

Through these and many other efforts, the Company transformed itself rom a “student” of aviation inspections … to a market-leading innovator.

Currently boasting five planes in operation, five crews and more than 10 pilots and 50 helicopter inspectors, the Yunnan Power Grid Company’s Helicopter Inspection Center has become the second largest professional provider of helicopter inspection services in the nation.

Over the past 13 years, the Yunnan Power Grid Company has acquired substantial professional expertise of high-altitude helicopter inspections, refreshing China’s records in this field while “weathering” all kinds of difficulties.

Year 2015 marked the first time the company’s helicopter flew 4,300 meters above the ground, setting a new record in China’s history of high-altitude helicopter inspection.

The following year, the Company’s Helicopter Inspection Center brought in the heavyweight Bell 407GXP, the world’s most advanced type with a ceiling height of 6,100 meters. That same year, the Company’s helicopter inspections perfected techniques to perform the visual inspections at 5,200 meters high, enabling operations in areas with an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, such as Diqing, Lijiang, Nujiang and Shaotong … giving full helicopter inspection capabilities for transmission lines throughout Yunnan province.

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