Why Are There Big Red Balls on Idaho Power Lines?
Laugh all you want, but we can't be the only ones who have thought about this. For that reason, we're willing to take one for the team and voice a ridiculous question.
Exactly what are those big red balls on Idaho power lines? Surely they must serve a purpose.
3 Disproven Theories
Before we tracked down the answer, we came across a few interesting, out-there, and disproven theories we're delighted to share with you.
- Some folks believe they're used to weigh down power lines to mitigate the effects of high-powered wind.
- The paranoid Tin Hat crowd thinks they're Uncle Sam's surveillance cameras.
- The speed demons swear they're speed traps.
But our theory might take the cake on crazy. Back when we were kids in the early '90s, we thought they were Christmas decorations the power company forgot to take down.
Yeah, moving on...
Solved: the mystery of the big red balls
Commonly referred to as "aerial markers," documentation from the Federal Aviation Administration indicates the red balls on Idaho power lines are markers! They exist to assist low-flying aircraft pilots in identifying and avoiding power lines. They're also used to identify the conductor span between towers.
But being the curious cats we are, we wondered what would happen if an aircraft were to graze or collide with a power line. To find the answer, we browsed the Aviation Stack Exchange message board.
It would depend on what kind of line you hit. If you hit a high tension line (the ones on the big towers), you would probably crumple it up. If you hit one of the lower voltage lines on the poles, it would probably snap after going into the wing or ripping the gear off. Either way it would very much ruin your day, the result is pretty much the same, a balled up airplane.
—Ron Beyer, L3Harris sr. software engineer
Fascinating! But these plastic 17-pound aerial markers are no one-trick ponies. They also serve as an indicator of effective insulation during maintenance checks.
So, there you have it! They're not Uncle Sam's secret cameras. They're not speed traps. And they're most definitely not Christmas decorations Idaho Power forgot to take down.