SCE Supports CAL FIRE in Wire Avoidance Pilot Training
Every week in the United States, there are on average two wire strikes by aircraft, including helicopters. And with the increase in wildfires throughout California, the number of helicopter pilots is increasing, along with their total flight hours.
At CAL FIRE’s annual Aviation Safety Conference in Sacramento this year, more than 250 people attended a seminar on flying safely around wires at lower altitudes. Leading the training was Southern California Edison Air Operations chief pilot Torbjorn “TC” Corell, who was recruited by the fire agency to present.
“There are a lot more firefighting efforts now and we need more trainings like this,” said Corell, who organized SCE’s first wire avoidance seminar last year with more than 140 first responder pilots from across Southern California, including CAL FIRE.
Pilots who attended CAL FIRE’s wire avoidance safety training learned about optical illusions in the wire environment, including sun angles, background terrain and color, and other visual illusions. They also learned about the differences in hardware when it comes to transmission and distribution equipment.
Corell noted that 86% of the wire strikes happen in clear weather with good visibility and 66% of these involve pilots with more than 2,500 flight hours.
“What these numbers tell us is that a large number of wire strikes occur not because of inexperience, lack of information or bad weather. There are other factors that play into flying safely,” he said.
“We can mark more wires, but we need to do more outreach like this,” added Corell, noting that the pilots had numerous questions during his well-received CAL FIRE safety training. “Education is power and knowledge and is how we help save lives. SCE is leading the pack in these types of safety trainings.”
SCE is already planning to host another wire avoidance seminar this spring and CAL FIRE has indicated it plans to regularly include similar training in their annual safety conference.
“This is very rewarding for me,” said Corell. “I feel like I made a difference.”