The personal thoughts and comments of Gene, "The Aggie."

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'Gun-Free Zones' are only gun-free, until somebody brings a gun. - Unknown

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What Are You Afraid Of?

H/T: Billy Ockham

I just can't resist posting this one for your viewing pleasure! It sends shivers down my tail bone!

According to the narrator:

There are only three things I've been afraid of: Electricity, heights and women.

That's one job application you will never see my name on!

BTW, I used to work for an electrical utility company back "in the day". I had a cushy inside job until the local union decided to strike and gave me the opportunity to work out in a warehouse for a couple of months. Then I got a position in the communications repair shop for what turned out to be the last month of the strike. Fixing two-way radios, repairing lightening-struck repeater sites AND repairing radio-controlled buckets in bucket trucks.

I was paired with an experienced hand whose sole mission was to keep me from killing myself - or him - from my ignorance of field conditions. After all, I was an inside weaney and we were definitely out in the field.

Our radio-controlled bucket trucks were especially built to insulate the manned bucket from the chassis sitting on the ground. That way, high-voltage lines, within reach of the bucket, could be worked hot, as in the video. Two independent control systems were in place. The bucket man had a remote radio transmitter used to operate the bucket. That way, there were no electrical cables running between the bucket and the chassis. In addition, there was a set of hydraulic controls mounted on the chassis so a man stationed on the ground could control the bucket if the aerial operator got into trouble.

The hand-held transmitter unit, think of a radio-controlled airplane transmitter, had fried. Not the fried chicken kind of fried but the "I took the acetylene torch to the TV" kind of fried. I mean portions of the copper-clad circuit board were blackened and whole sections of copper lands were just gone, leaving thin, black squiggly lines of soot on the underlying board. Did I mention the smell? Something about a short in the battery supply aided by some ham-fisted %$&^$% that didn't belong under the cover of that box. My partner and I were doing a week of shop duty when the freshly fried critter arrived. It fell to me to repair it. I was least skillful on the two-way radio repair skills, being the "new guy", and I had the most time to spare for such %$&^ things. hehe I also had the most experience working on anything but radios. Fortunately, we had full documentation of the control unit, including board layout. With humongous bus-wire and lots of glue I rebuilt the board. The substrate wasn't damaged too badly. Did I mention the smell? Once the unit passed all the bench tests for transmitter output and such, we just had to go and verify its functionality. You know, we had to go fly the bucket!

Flying the bucket, under appropriate experienced supervision, meant first verifying we had complete control of an unmanned bucket. The operator brought his truck into the maintenance yard for our combined shops and parked it at least 100 yards from everything. We were in the clear for 360 degrees laterally and 100-miles vertically. For some reason, he appeared most concerned about the vertical clearance!

The bucket operator went through his "pre-flight" checks and then powered up the electronics on the chassis and the hand held transmitter. Nothing happened. That was a good thing. Then he gently raised the bucket off of its cradle and swung it around a bit. Up, down, simultaneous vertical and lateral movements. Full range of motion.

There were no sudden jerks or oops! and everything functioned smoothly. Even the bucket operator liked it. Then the operator brought the bucket over to our feet, opened the door and crawled in. Manned flight test.

Once tested manned, my partner and I were invited to give it the final test. Yep, we got to fly the thing. The bucket operator took us up individually and let us "solo" for a couple of minutes.

Sixty to eighty feet up is more than enough altitude for this Aggie! It was fun while it lasted.

God Bless Ya'll !

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