That said, I'm not quite a dummy. It's probably not like it is in my imagination.
Has anyone every flown pipeline patrol? What's it like? Does anyone care to share a fun/interesting story about it?
I started out there 40 years ago......At that time there was 1 pa12 now I believe 4...Anyway it was a huge time builder -6-8 -hours 5 times a week or so....It was not a straight and level operation but rather involved following the lines into a battery then taking the next line out the a pump Jack(like tracing a spoke an wheel if you will)there is a steep turn or wing over at the hub and spoke of each line to get back on.It was at 50`-100` or so at that time....We looked for leaks or someone digging on the line and radioed a ground station that followed it up through land locations we`d given.
The aircraft had long range tanks...8 hours...there are farm strips along the way for relief.....
After a year or less you can go brain dead......and at low altitute ...it`s hazardous....
We made sure to eat properly to keep the blood sugar in check..
I couldn`t do it now cause I need a nap in the afternoon..
All due to bird strikes
Actual leaks can sometimes be seen around surface equipment like pumping stations or pumpjacks, but that shows as darker color soil or discolouration of some kind and can be easily seen from a few hundred feet up. And certainly safety is better further from ground based obstacles.
You have to get used to looking out the side window a lot while trying to also pay attention out front. Since the routes are repetitive, you get accustomed to the track and rely on the fact that flying "x" number of feet to the side of the line will keep you from hitting any towers/trees/hills what have you. And it is unlikely you will encounter any other aircraft flying that low but you still have to keep watch.
Anytime you do see a suspicious situation you need to record the location and likely take a picture(s) of the site to send along later to the pipeline company as a record of your performance. This requires steep turns at low altitude and cruise speed while taking notes and using a camera out the side window. You're very busy and it takes a while to gain the skill to perform this type of maneuver while looking at a point on the ground rather than the horizon.
It's not really low and slow gazing at the country side. Your company will likely expect you to run your aircraft at near to full power all the time since time is money. Again, I can't speak for all companies, but as far as I know you get paid a salary so the more miles of line you can cover per hour the better it is profit wise. So regardless of the aircraft you fly, it's going very fast for its type.
6 to 8 hours straight every day in a small aircraft by yourself can be tiring. Usually these planes are equipped with auxiliary tanks so fuel stops are reduced. And again there is pressure to get the miles covered so potty breaks are looked upon as necessary evils. If you suffer from TB (tiny bladder) then it's not going to work well for you. Depending on the seats and your physical characteristics it can be uncomfortable to do 3-5 hours straight. And if you have a limited number of routes it can get boring after a while. You'll get to recognizing when farmer John adds a new piece of equipment or washes his truck.
Plus weather plays a part. You will be expected to fly if at all possible and can certainly expect lots of days with mechanical turbulence since your'e quite close to the ground. And bouncing around just makes the whole day that much better.
It is steady work though and pays fairly well for what it is. You don't have to deal with passengers and customer relations. Sometimes you may have a spotter with you but a lot of routes are solo. You need to be able to deal with a lot of alone time. Although you are building significant PIC time, it is small, single engine piston VFR.
Hope that helps.