Unlit Towering Inferno: Heat turns up on FAA request for comments

met tower.JPGA 5 January request by the FAA for comments on a proposal to modify an existing Advisory Circular became significantly more serious on 10 January.

On that day in Oakley, California, an ag pilot lost his life after hitting an unmarked gray-coloured meteorological tower meant to collect wind data.

Here’s a picture of Rockwell International S-2R N4977X in better days…

According to the NTSB report, witness said the pilot made no maneurvers before hitting the 197ft-tall galvanized metal structure with guy wire supports, indicating that he probably didn’t see it. By regulation, towers less than 200ft tall do not have to be lit.

The issue has been on the minds of a lot of people of late. As Flight International discussed in a recent environment report, “Aviation officials in Idaho say the slim towers are difficult to spot if not marked, are installed in a matter of days, and can be gone in 12-18 months,” the report states. ”Many pilots have ‘close call’ stories to relate,” say officials

The FAA in its Jan 5 notice, asked for comments from the public on improvements that could include lighting and making guy wires stand out.

The document also tells of a meeting in November where the Ag pilots advocacy organization laid out its concerns:

The FAA has received complaints and inquiries from agricultural operations in remote or rural areas regarding the safety impacts of these towers on low-level agricultural operations. In addition, representatives from the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) met with the FAA on November 16, 2010 to discuss safety specific concerns of the aerial application industry. The NAAA suggested safety guidelines and marking and lighting criteria in order to reduce the risks for aerial applications. A copy of the material provided by NAAA has been placed in the docket.

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