The Lasen helicopter conducting gas surveys in the North Coast is N16770. | Image via PG&E.

Press release from PG&E:

Just in time for National Safe Digging Month, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) started conducting aerial patrols of gas transmission pipelines in Humboldt County April 1. Residents may notice the low-flying helicopter in Southern and Southeastern Humboldt County at a height of 300 to 500 feet.

The helicopter will fly to and from Eureka’s Murray Field, intermittently Monday through Sunday, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. through the week of April 4.

PG&E conducts semi-annual aerial patrols of all its gas transmission pipelines in the interest of public safety and system integrity. PG&E crews are combining the use of LIDAR-based equipment and state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process to find and fix leaks, if any are detected, faster than ever before.

Each patrol consists of a pilot and an observer. The observer in the helicopter 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.

April is National Safe Digging Month and PG&E would like to remind its customers to call 811 or visit before starting outdoor projects where dirt is moved. 811 signals  utilities to come to the location to mark all underground lines for free. Contractors with projects of all sizes are required by California Government Code 4216 to call 811, 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.