Starting today, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will conduct routine low-level helicopter patrols to inspect natural gas transmission lines in Marin and Napa counties, as part of their semi-annual leak survey and maintenance program. PG&E patrols remote gas lines by helicopter as part of its continuing effort to ensure the safety and reliability of its natural gas system.
By combining the use of LIDAR-based equipment and state-of-the-art leak detection technology with a streamlined repair process, finding and fixing leaks, if any are detected, are faster than ever before. A spotter in the helicopter also uses a GPS-enabled tablet with mapping data to navigate the pipelines and document excavation and construction activity, or other observations that warrant follow-up.
If issues or obstructions are identified, it is possible helicopters may need to fly at a lower altitude for additional inspections. Ground crews may also be sent to construction areas to verify operating conditions or anything that may limit safe access to the pipelines.
Weather permitting, flights will occur between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PG&E will fly in a contracted helicopter, likely a Bell 206B3 Long Ranger that is blue and white, like the attached photos. In Marin County, the helicopter will fly over pipelines from north of Novato to Mill Valley, mostly along Highway 101. In Napa County, the flight path with follow pipelines along Silverado Highway from Deer Park to Napa, around Napa and then south to Sonoma Highway (Hwy 12).
Pilots may fly as low as 300 to 500 feet when conducting inspections. Flights will be coming and going from the Hayward Executive Airport and the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport through the end of the week.