Aerial platform for high voltage powerline rescue

Airplane resquing
AP PhotoTom Brenner

On November 27th 2022, an accident took place in the state of Maryland, USA when a small airplane crashed into 230-kV power transmission lines 100 feet above the ground. The airplane crashed nose-first into one powerline tower due to its low flight altitude and got stuck in a web of powerlines around the stanchion. The accident caused a significant power outage in the surrounding area and a large rescue operation was launched soon after the incident had occurred. The plane occupants, a 66-year old pilot and a 65-year old passenger both survived the crash and neither faced any life-threatening injuries.

Insulation for safe rescue operation

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The initial emergency response consisted of many paramedic engines and first aid units to rescue the passengers from the aircraft and give them medical attention. However, due to the difficult nature of the operation, the rescue mission was not as straightforward as hoped. The power to the powerlines was cut off after the accident but the rescue personnel had to be careful as the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) informed them, that the lines still hold high static energy which can be lethal. This meant that each powerline needed to be grounded and bonded to ensure that there was no danger to rescue personnel or the place occupants.

The rescue plan was two-phase. First rescue personnel team climbed up the tower to ground it and ensure that the wires have no residual power. After that a second team of rescuers went up with two aerial platforms to secure the plane to the tower to ensure safe extraction, after which the passengers were safely evacuated from the aircraft and taken to the ground for immediate medical attention. The rescue operation went as planned and both passengers were transported to a hospital for thorough medical examination.

Bronto aerial platform on duty

The aerial equipment used in the rescue operation included one Bronto Skylift SI178HDT insulated aerial platform operated by AUI Power, based in Elkton, Maryland. The unit has a safe working height of 178 feet which allowed the rescue personnel to reach the plane and the articulated boom structure ensured safe operating around the hanging powerlines. The Bronto SI-range units are insulated, which added an extra layer of safety to the operation as the aerials can be safely used around powerlines even when they are fully operational and have current running through them. Due to the steady working cage with a maximum load of 1000 lb, the passengers were able to be rescued safely with multiple rescuers helping them from the cage.

“The recovery effort wouldn’t have been possible without the Bronto on site, as the extra knuckle allowed the rescue personnel to safely maneuver around damaged equipment efficiently and accurately.”

AUI Power, a subcontractor for PEPCO

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