Friday, September 12, 2014

Low-flying helicopters at night prompt concern in Meriden, Connecticut

MERIDEN — Residents reported seeing “mysterious” low-flying helicopters at night this week, but Connecticut Light and Power officials said there is nothing to worry about.

CL&P is performing its biannual helicopter survey of transmission lines, company spokesman Frank Poirot said Friday. The helicopters, contracted by CL&P, are checking all 820 miles of “right of way” lines in the state, Poirot said. A “right of way” is the path the transmission lines follow and can cross private property.

The helicopters were seen on at least two different nights this week and heavily discussed in Meriden Facebook forums. Several people said they thought they were military or state police helicopters.

Martha Colaresi, who lives at the top of Diamond Hill in South Meriden, said she heard two helicopters flying in the area late Wednesday. Colaresi said she thought it was a low-flying plane at first, but then heard the helicopter blades.

By the time she got outside, the sound disappeared and she hasn’t heard it again. She used to hear low-flying planes years ago when air shows were held at nearby Meriden-Markham Airport. This noise was much louder, Colaresi said.

Poirot said the helicopter crews are checking plants growing around the power lines, trees that may pose a hazard, and other issues. If the crew spots a potential problem, they will hover over the area and take photos, Poirot said. The information is passed to ground crews to investigate further, Poirot said.

“These are all proactive maintenance efforts,” Poirot said. “We catch things before they become a problem.”

The helicopters are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Poirot said, although some of the work was going on at night. Another CL&P spokesman previously said the helicopters carry infrared cameras looking for hot spots, which could indicate power lines need repair.

Some of the areas they are scanning include a portion of the Meriden-Wallingford line, on the west side of Meriden near the boarder with Cheshire, and near Westfield Road. Holly Wills, president of the Meriden Council of Neighborhoods, said she hadn’t heard any reports of low-flying helicopters.

Another low-flying helicopter was also in Meriden Friday afternoon at Israel Putnam School. The helicopter was being used to take aerial photos of students for a school activity.

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