The helichoppers look like this. Photo: PG&E.


Press release from PG&E:

Today, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is conducting routine low-level helicopter patrols to inspect gas transmission and distribution lines in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, as part of our 6-month leak survey and maintenance program. Helicopters will fly low along gas lines in areas between south Eureka and just south of Humboldt Hill. In Mendocino County, helicopters will fly mostly along Highway 101, from Willits south to Ukiah and to the Sonoma County line.

PG&E patrols remote gas lines, which are often located in rural areas, by helicopter as part of its continuing effort to ensure the safety and reliability of its natural gas system; however, some of the flights may be along highways and over neighborhoods near highways. If issues or obstructions are identified, it is possible helicopters may need to fly at a lower altitude for additional inspections.

Using LIDAR-based equipment, PG&E crews are combining the use of state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process to find and fix leaks faster than ever before.

A spotter in the helicopter also uses a GPS-enabled tablet with mapping data to navigate the pipelines and document excavation and construction activity, or other observations that warrant follow-up. Where appropriate, PG&E ground personnel are sent to construction areas to verify that safe digging practices are being followed. This includes confirming the use of a valid 811 ticket for proper marking of underground utility lines that help prevent the gas line from being hit.

PG&E would like to remind its customers to call 811 or visit before starting outdoor projects where dirt is moved. Contractors with projects of all sizes are required by California Government Code 4216 to call 811 to have underground lines marked before digging, including contractors hired by a homeowner. This prevents strikes on underground lines. Strikes to underground lines is a public safety risk, causing damage and possibly injury.

Weather permitting, and barring unforeseen issues, flights will occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PG&E will fly in a contracted helicopter, likely a Bell 206B3 Long Ranger that is blue and white, similar to the [above] photo.