The High Wire – Helicopter Madness

In one of my past careers I used to fly in helicopters fairly often for architectural photography with Bob Harr of Hedrich Blessing. I was an assistant to an excellent boss who had learned his trade in the military shooting aerial images for maps in Alaska. We flew out of Midway airport in Chicago and had many interesting trips.

Once when shooting a roofing job on the John Hancock building in Chicago my boss requested the pilot get closer to the building as we circled. The pilot politely declined due to the winds that large buildings can create. Apparently you can literally get sucked into the building or blown out of control as you come around the buildings edge and there’s a sudden shift in wind (so we take out a few Mag Mile shoppers… what’s the big deal!?). Bob expressed to me that the pilot was a wuss as we could have gotten closer and gotten better shots in doing so.

Well a few months later we went out with the same pilot on the most mind numbing chopper shoot I’d ever been on – 1.5 hours flying straight out over flat cornfields and nothingness to shoot a box shaped Japanese owned factory and then 1.5 hours back – When we finished shooting the building the pilot asked if we minded a little something to spice the flight up since it would be his last flight with us. He promptly buzzed a cornfield and had some fun. When done Bob asked what he was going to do. Pilot says he’s going to Alaska to work the high wire. I asked what that meant (in a loud chopper with open doors wearing headphones) and was informed it meant sitting on a platform extended from a helicopter several hundred feet up in the air working on high voltage power lines in a metal Faraday suit. You work one week, take two weeks off. Make beaucoup money in two years if you can handle it that long and then move on. What a wuss! Kinda changed my boss and I’s opinion of the Pilot.

Well this video is exactly what our pilot was going to do. As they say – F that!

High Voltage Cable Inspection