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Casey Christie / The Californian

PG&E linemen are on a training exercise getting ready for a large upcoming project. They were being hoisted to the top of this tower and back down, Thursday, in the Rosedale area.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The noise of the helicopter was a bit much for Spencer Corum, while his mother, Trisha, took photos of her of her brother Frank Persinger while he was working on helicopter training exercises with PG&E.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Two PG&E linemen, from Bakersfield, Jose Tirado, foreground, and Dale Brock, are lowered onto the ground, during their training exercise, Thursday, preparing them and many other workers for a large project that will raise transmission lines from two solar projects in the Carrizo Plains area soon.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

The pilot lowers two more PG&E workers onto a large power line structure, during their training exercise in the Rosedale area, Thursday.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

PG&E workers perform training exercises with the help of a helicopter, Thursday, near Mohawk and Krebs. The exercise included 17 linemen getting ready for a large project that will raise transmission lines from two solar projects in the Carrizo Plains to a connection in Midway.

From her vantage point on the ground, Sharon Mulholland clearly saw the benefits of having a helicopter transport Pacific Gas and Electric Co. linemen to the top of a 150-foot-tall electrical transmission tower in northeast Bakersfield Thursday.

But her enthusiasm began to fade as her son's turn on the helicopter neared.

"I don't know," said the mother, wife and niece of PG&E linemen. "It makes me awful nervous."

To be sure, Thursday's event -- repeated helicopter trips featuring pairs of men dangling from the end of a 100-foot cable -- was part training exercise, part white-knuckler.

Not that José Tirado was anxious ... much.

"It was good. It was fun," the Bakersfield linemen said after being let down from his first helicopter trip to the top of a transmission tower. "Got the heart pumping a little bit."

Normally Tirado scales transmission towers by hand to perform maintenance or repairs. He said the climbing makes him more tired than scared.

Reducing fatigue is certainly one of the benefits of using a helicopter, but the main advantage comes from the ability to gain quick access to towers in remote areas, said PG&E general construction supervisor Robert Cabaniss Jr.

In fact, Thursday's exercise was to prepare 17 men to help with a 19-month project in which PG&E will build and hook up 36 miles of transmission lines to and from two solar energy projects in the Carrizo Plain. The work is expected to finish in December 2011.

He brushed aside any talk of fear on his team's part.

"All these kids are jacked," he said. "They love it."

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