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."