RTE (Réseau de Transport d’Electricité), the company managing France’s network of electric power lines, took delivery of its second medium twin, a Eurocopter EC225, last month. It recently created a new subsidiary, Airtelis, that offers specialized aerial-work operations to third parties. In more than 250,000 flight hours over decades of operations, RTE claims to have developed patented techniques to use helicopters in power-line building, maintenance and surveillance.
Airtelis will make the most of the EC225’s 9,900-pound sling load capability, which it expects will accelerate construction projects. Airtelis’s aircraft will be fitted with “innovative” equipment to hoist cable from a reel on the ground to line crews atop pylons. The Eurocopter-designed system will “guarantee the highest level of safety in class-C sling load operations,” according to the two companies.
With the addition of the second EC225, RTE will operate a fleet of 13 helicopters. Nine AS350 Ecureuil singles (AStars), one AS355 Ecureuil twin (TwinStar) and one EC135 round out the fleet.
Airtelis has a workforce of 120. The 14 pilots have logged on average 15,000 helicopter flight hours. Airtelis has its own maintenance workshop in Salon-de-Provence, in the southeast of France.
About 80 percent of operations are conducted on live power lines. For simpler projects, technicians work from a nacelle hanging 100 to 250 feet below the aircraft. For heavy work, the nacelle is laid onto the bundle of lines.