As the largest Distribution Network Operator in the UK, National Grid owns, manages and maintains an electricity network covering 55,500km² across the South West, South Wales, the East Midlands and the West Midlands. To assist with the inspection and maintenance of the network, we own and operate a fleet of five twin-engine Airbus EC135 helicopters which are based at Bristol Airport and Nottingham Tollerton Airport. This is an entirely unique capability to National Grid and has been for almost 60 years.
The Helicopter Unit with its 20 staff provide proactive and reactive inspections 24 hours a day, 365 days a year helping National Grid Electricity Distribution (NGED) to keep the lights on for its 8 million customers, and on those rare occasions when there is a problem, restoring the power as quickly as possible.
The aircraft can be regularly seen across the NGED network patrolling the 132kV towers, EHV towers and 11kV lines. This means we are operating between 35ft and 100ft above ground level which is much lower than most other aircraft. The helicopters are painted in bright yellow and black with the word ELECTRICITY marked on both sides to assist with identification, both from the ground and from the air.
Whilst we are unable to notify individual customers of our intended location on each day we have provided a map of what our intentions are which is updated as regularly as possible.