After eight accidents, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered a stop to San Diego Gas & Electric\u2019s aviation-related construction activities for its Sunrise Powerlink transmission project. \u201cCPUC is shutting down all helicopter operations related to the Sunrise Powerlink project,\u201d commission energy division director Julie Fitch wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to project vice president Patrick Lee announcing the stop work order. The move was in response to eight reported helicopter-related incidents during construction this year\u2014three of which occurred in September. All the September accidents resulted in construction materials being airlifted by helicopter becoming unsecured and falling to the ground. In each incident, the cause was attributed to faulty rigging. \u201cThe pattern of the Sunrise project helicopter incidents is troubling to the CPUC and is of serious concern due to the safety risks such incidents impose,\u201d Fitch stated. SDG&E president and chief operating officer Michael Niggli stated that the utility is \u201ccommitted to improving all helicopter and construction practices\u201d and strives to meet the CPUC\u2019s requirements \u201cas soon as possible.\u201d The Federal Aviation Administration Sept. 7 ordered that the license of one pilot working on the project, Brandon James Hahai, be suspended for five months due to a Feb. 12 incident where Hahai was piloting a chopper when the tail rotor struck a boulder. In the suspension order, the FAA said that the pilot\u2019s continued operation of the chopper immediately after the incident was \u201creckless\u201d and endangered lives and property because the helicopter was in an \u201cunairworthy condition.\u201d The commission based its authority on a statute governing the project\u2019s mitigation, monitoring, compliance and reporting program. It states regulators can halt construction if a serious infraction of the rules occurs, or if a pattern non-compliance of those rules exists. The stop work order letter also states that four remedial actions must be taken before helicopters can resume flying. The actions include: -\tRevising incident reporting procedures and submitting them to the CPUC for approval. -\tConducting a safety analysis of all helicopters that includes review of standard operating procedures. -\tTraining personnel on rigging practices and requiring rigging personnel to be certified. -\tRestricting helicopter operations to sites where ground vehicles cannot gain access. SDG&E spokesperson Jennifer Ramp said the utility began working with the CPUC on some of the corrective measures before the stop work order was issued. \u201cThat\u2019s our main priority,\u201d she said, while declining to say how long it might take to implement the measures, or if the order might impede the construction schedule. Work on the $2 billion, 117-mile, 1,000 MW capacity Sunrise Powerlink began in September 2010 and is expected to be completed during the second half of 2012, according to SDG&E.