About Us

National Grid owns and operates a fleet of five twin-engine Airbus EC135 helicopters.

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.

The Helicopter Team

Our Helicopter Unit is operated by a staff of five pilots, five observers and three maintenance engineers. Under the charge of Accountable Manager Robin Tutcher, the team operates out of a specially constructed hangar and offices at Bristol Airport.

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Our History. Our Future

National Grid’s helicopter unit will celebrate its 60th year of operation in 2023 having provided inspection services since its inception in 1963 for the Bristol Port Authority.

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In line with National Grid’s ethos, safety is the absolute highest priority both for the flight crews and our customers. As a recognised CAA Part SPO (Specialised Operations) operator, the Helicopter Unit develops and oversees its flight operations using a comprehensive and active Management System.


Based on the Management System and the procedures published within the approved Flight Operations manual the CAA have given permission under SERA.3105 and SERA.5005(F) for all of the National Grid aircraft to operate below 500ft and fly closer than 500ft to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure for the purpose of inspecting, repairing or maintaining the overhead electricity network.


Additionally, our role is to ensure the network is safe and therefore should we encounter a situation where the crew deem there is a risk to public safety and there is a suitable area to land the helicopter the decision will often be made to land and make the area safe until the ground teams from network services can attend.