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Low-Flying Choppers Patroling Fairlawn, Bath Airspace

FirstEnergy contractor is conducting aerial power line inspections in the area through Aug. 24.

Fairlawn and Bath residents should not be alarmed if they see black helicopters flying low and slow in their airspace during the next two weeks … it’s just FirstEnergy contractors conducting power line inspections.

The wrote about the aerial inspections on its Facebook page Monday to alleviate potential concerns about the black choppers’ presence in the township.

Chief Mike McNeely said the department typically gets several phone calls from residents during the annual inspection process.

“We do get calls because the helicopters are very low. They kind of just hover while they’re inspecting (and) people are concerned because they don’t know if they’re going to crash,” McNeely said. “Or they ask if they’re looking for somebody, because they think it’s a police helicopter.”

Chief Russ Hose told City Council on Monday that the power line inspections will also be happening in Fairlawn. Hose said he wanted council members to be aware that the low-flying choppers could prompt phone calls from curious residents.

Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman, said the annual aerial inspections of overhead transmission power lines in the Fairlawn-Bath area began Monday and should be done Aug. 24, weather permitting.

“We typically inspect lines once a year. We do (aerial inspections) anywhere we have higher-voltage transmission lines, typically in more rural areas. Using the helicopters instead of foot patrols is a cost-effective way to cover a lot of ground for inspections,” Durbin explained.

During the inspection process, specialists from Haverfield Aviation – the contractor hired to perform the patrols – use black helicopters to hover low and slow above transmission lines and substations to identify potential problem areas.

Haverfield crew members use a combination of "gyroscopically stabilized optical equipment and naked-eye methods" to make their visual observations, the company explains on its website.

The aerial patrols are done to help identify areas of FirstEnergy’s transmission system that may need maintenance, thereby improving service reliability. The patrols also are a key component of the company's ongoing vegetation management program designed to keep trees away from power lines and prevent tree-related outages. 

Haverfield, based in Gettysburg, PA, reports that it is the leading provider of aerial power line inspection and construction support services both in the United States and abroad. The company states it has worked with every major utility in the U.S. in the more than 30 years it has been in business.

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