I wrote this originally a long time ago for a friend from church, and I thought you would enjoy it too. About two weeks ago (not really), I went down to Visalia to meet with some SCE people about a project. The project entails SCE trying to connect two of their existing transmission lines that service most of Southern California. They need to connect these two lines so they can avert power surges and outages. So, to do this they need people like me and biologists to help them decide where to place these new towers. They do an aerial survey first (helicopter), then after they decide placement, we will do a ground survey. These towers are the large, HUGE steel towers. So I hope that’s enough of an intro to...
Okay, here it is in technicolor and everything.
I arrived at the Visalia municipal airport at 8:45 am and my flight was at 9:30. I watched the helicopter come in. He flew in from southern California (Rosemead) and had three passengers with him from SCE (Southern California Edison). There were 11 of us. 9 from SCE, me (the archaeologist), and a biologist. Lets see, there was the project manager, environmental planner, two road story guys (they build the access roads to the towers), engineer (the guy who builds and places the towers), another biologist, and some other people who's jobs I have no idea.
So I was on the first flight. The helicopter will seat four passengers. I sat behind the pilot. I was with the two biologists and some other guy who got to sit in the middle on all the flights (he was there for continuity) Our flight was an hour long.
It wasn't as loud as I thought, and very smooth. We wore those "oh so stylish" headsets. and pushed a button to talk to each other. The view was awesome. You really can see BRM's (bedrock mortars – the grinding holes that indians used to grind seeds and nuts) from the air. I have a picture, but you can't see the holes unless I really zoom in.
I didn't get too sick. I started to get a bit sick, but that was because I was looking down and swinging myself around to see stuff. So I sat up and focused on the mountain for about five minutes and then I was fine.
I can't wait to do it again. I hope I get another opportunity. Those SCE people get to do it all the time. Of course they have a fleet of helicopters and they employ I think four pilots.
So, I've attached a few photos.
The first one is of the helicopter, itself. Number two is of "the stone corral" (it's pretty cool
and was built prior to 1870. It is also the place where two famous train robbers where shot by the US Marshals and a local posse. Number three is a view of the general area with the orchards and the Friant-Kern canal and the snowcapped sierra's in the far background.
Okay, this is long enough. I hope you have enjoyed this installment of the life of a local archaeologist (my job is so cool).
Addendum: Since this was originally written, I have gone up for a second ride. Not quite as enjoyable but exhilarating, nonetheless. I flew out of Big Creek (a town in the Sierra’s, that is the headquarters of SCE for the area). There were two biologists (one was in training), our guide from SCE (I have a story about him, but I’ll save that for later), and myself. We were surveying areas for potential helicopter landing sites. And so the fastest way to get to these sites is to fly to an existing helicopter landing site, and then driving/hiking from there. So the flight was about 15 minutes as opposed to 2 hours by car. So that was nice. But it was a bit too windy where we were going. The helicopter was getting blown around a bit. And it was too windy to land. The pilot (he was great) came in to land us and almost stalled, so he flipped us around for another go, and almost stalled again, so flipped us around again… He safely landed on the fourth try, but told us he will not be able to pick us up for the trip back, it is too dangerous. Lucky for us, SCE stashes vehicles and emergency equipment at certain places, and we happened to be at one. So we had a truck to get us back to town when we were done surveying. This has not put me off flying in helicopters. I actually felt quite safe, more so than in a plane. Not sure why though.