Pipeline Patrol

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Lotro
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Pipeline Patrol

#1 Post by Lotro » Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:13 am

I keep seeing postings here and there for positions flying small single engine aircraft for pipeline patrol. The latest is to fly a PA-12. As a low-time PPL, with a day job, and dream of flying for a living, I feel like pipeline patrol would be awesome. I've totally romanticized the idea of flying low and slow with the door open over the vast Canadian expanse day in and day out.

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?

Thanks!

~Lotro
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DHC2eater
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Re: Pipeline Patrol

#2 Post by DHC2eater » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:59 am

I suspect the job is out of YEN!!!!!

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..

DHC2eater
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LousyFisherman
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Re: Pipeline Patrol

#3 Post by LousyFisherman » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:38 am

There's a fellow operating out of CYBW. The leading edge of his wing looks like someone took a baseball bat to it.
All due to bird strikes

LF
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5x5
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Re: Pipeline Patrol

#4 Post by 5x5 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:29 am

I can't say for everyone, but not many operators flying at 50' to 100' these days. More typically 350' to 500'. Used to be that the thinking was the closer to the ground the better, but what you're mainly looking for is encroachment on the line (heavy farm equipment, road construction, seismic/rig equipment) since the weight compresses the soil and puts pressure on the line which can lead to leaks. Any active digging nearby is also a concern.

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.
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ngodline
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Re: Pipeline Patrol

#5 Post by ngodline » Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:43 pm

anybody got an idea how fast they "cruise" at in the helicopter. the one that goes over my house is the shweizer (sp?) 300 or one of those.
mike
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Fly for fun
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Re: Pipeline Patrol

#6 Post by Fly for fun » Fri Nov 25, 2016 5:51 am

Hello all, this is an older topic but I'll add my experience for anyone interested. I flew pipeline patrols in a 172 through a "sub contractor" for Enbridge for three years. My route was interesting as it was southern Ontario. Flew out of YSN, around lake ontario into the GTA. Usually 800-1000 feet agl, flew all around, into and out of Pearson 3 to 4 times per flight, through Downsview, Brampton, Buttonville, City Centre, Barrie, Edenvale, Collingwood for refuel and food, then back south for Markham, Oshawa, Lindsay, Peterborough... then back through the GTA to Hamilton, then a small section in Niagara, then home. Most time was approx 1000 agl. Guess I have eagle eyes. Mainly looking for heavy equipment around 10 meters either side of pipeline... flew solo with laptop on co-pilot seat to log entries... lots of multi tasking. Flying around Toronto never got boring. Skyscrapers, jumbo jets in and out of Pearson... no matter what runways were in use, I had pipelines to patrol right through all of the approach/departures... lots of orbiting and waiting for a chance to slip through. seeing jumbos up close and personal was great. A good relationship with Toronto tower was important... every flight needed about 70 radio frequency changes, seemed daunting at first but soon became easy... about half of the 7-8 hour flight was low over built up areas around Toronto, so an engine failure would probably have meant seeing myself on the 6 o'clock news... only flew 1-2 days a week. Built up a 1000 hours over three years... was great fun at first, then just became boring and mundane like any job.... even with Skyscrapers and jumbos.... couldnt imagine how boring pipeline patrols In the prairies would be. Quit after my 150th patrol and just fly for fun now. Having a large bladder helps... my trainer had the bladder of a small child, that was brutal. Definitely a great experience all around... don't expect to do it for years, you will go brain dead from boredom.
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