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Summit takes human external load operations with the MD 500 series aircraft very seriously. They involve long-lining workers under the helicopter and delivering them to the top of power line tower structures. This method is efficient and flexible, as it allows the aircraft to put workers exactly where they need to go quickly without having to drive to a remote tower and climb the tower from below. It also lowers the environmental impact of driving into the area. The MD 500 has a “belly band” and uses a hook-and-rope system that attaches to a harness the worker wears. Obviously safely is paramount, so everything is checked and double-checked before any human lift occurs.


The MD 500 also has a platform that attaches to the aircraft so the worker can sit outside the aircraft and perform maintenance on energized or de-energized conductors or shield wires. This method gives the pilot the ability to watch what is happening and provides more clearance for the main rotor. It also keeps the worker less fatigued than standing on the skid or using a long line.


The MD 500/530 series is Summit’s bread-and-butter aircraft. “They go out every day and work. They don’t break often and put in full days pulling line, moving people, lifting equipment, and doing what our customers need them to do,” Woodaman said. Summit operates three MD 530Fs and one MD 500E, plus a leased MD 500D. The MD 530Fs are specialized for hot-and-high conditions and use the 650 hp Rolls-Royce 250-C30 engine, while the MD 500E uses the 420 hp Rolls-Royce 250-C20 engine. The MD 500 series needs no introduction in the utility and construction industry. It is known for its compact size, excellent visibility, good power lift, and superb maneuverability. “We’ve been operating these machines for decades and they’re everything we need; they are economical, reliable, and able to fit into and get out of tight places,” Woodaman said. “It would take a very specialized design to replace the 500 for this type of work.”


52


Jan/Feb 2020


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