A look at an HAI member up close and personal.
Wilson Construction Co. of Canby, Ore., is a full-service utility construction company specializing in the design and construction of electric utility infrastructure for power providers. One of the region’s largest privately held companies of its kind, Wilson’s work includes designing, building, and repairing overhead and underground transmission and distribution transmission infrastructure. Its teams also engineer, drill, and perform grading for substation and switchyard construction.
The company has performed extensive work across the United States as well as Canada, American Samoa, and Indonesia. Today, its locations in Canby and Woodburn, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; Phoenix, Arizona; and Sacramento and Corona, California, support Wilson Construction’s expansive operations.
Matt O. Wilson founded the company almost 70 years ago in Troutdale, Oregon, installing power lines for the federal Rural Electrification Administration, which first brought electricity to farms in Oregon and Washington. He taught his son, Don Wilson, the current president of the company, that carefully selected and trained personnel, adaptability, and a desire to embrace the best technology for the job are essential building blocks to success.
Recognizing helicopters’ vital position as a preferred workhorse in utility operations, the company purchased and today operates its own fleet in-house. The decision to be an aircraft owner and operator allows the company to have complete control over operations, maintenance, training, safety, and quality. Wilson operates a full flight operations department, employing pilots, mechanics, and other aircraft operations professionals.
Industry veteran Ron Stewart, Wilson’s director of helicopter operations and chief pilot, oversees the company’s helicopter department. A Part 133 rotorcraft external-load operation, the department includes six helicopters: three MD 530Fs and three MD 500Es, including serial number 5, the oldest MD 500E still in service.
In addition to helicopters, Wilson operates three fixed-wing aircraft: an Embraer Phenom 300, a Bombardier Challenger, and a Beechcraft King Air C90. The airplanes transport executives and other key personnel between job sites spanning the country.
Equipped to side-pull electrical lines and carry cargo and workers on a longline, Wilson’s helicopters remain busy supporting a variety of specialized jobs throughout the company:
- Distribution construction: Supporting the installation, repair, and maintenance of distribution systems.
- Substation construction: Providing switchyard and substation construction support.
- Transmission construction: Working with high-voltage overhead power lines and towers, even hot wires, with voltages ranging from 115 kV to 500 kV.
- Underground construction: Supporting solid-dielectric to high-pressure fluid-filled cable system construction up to 345 kV.
Ensuring Safe Operations
Wilson’s dedication to training and safety are exemplary. The company operates a strong safety management system (SMS) utilizing crew resource management (CRM). Its CRM system includes the pilot, electrical lineman, and fueler, allowing everyone to have a say in the safe operation of the aircraft and the ultimate go/no-go decision.
What’s more, Wilson operates its own construction training facility to ensure safe operations. Set on five acres, the facility includes a classroom, transmission line, wood pole climbing area, and fall-protection structure for hands-on training for job tasks and situations that crew members might experience in the field, including working with and around helicopters. The facility includes a job-site landing zone and structure-transfer training.