Hang Gliders And Power Lines, Working Together

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Those who use a tiny airport in Florida have found that the little guy sometimes wins and that not all mega-corporations are single-mindedly profit-driven. Operators of Quest Air Soaring Center in Groveland, Fla., were both surprised and appalled earlier this year when Progress Energy put up a 90-foot power pole less than 100 feet from one of Groveland Airport's runways. According to Quest Air's Lisa Kain, apparently a local politician told the company it needn't bother with public input regarding its new power line construction project. Kain said the new power line was technically legal because it followed FAA regulations but it didn't take into consideration the type of operations at Groveland, which is heavily used by hang gliders. "The landing area is anywhere that doesn't have an obstacle," Kain said. "Centerlines don't mean anything." Kain was ready to do battle but found Progress Energy surprisingly understanding and accommodating. The company stopped construction of the line after hearing the safety concerns and has promised to take down the high wires, lower them and move them farther away from the airport. To do so, the company had to buy a piece of property for more than $300,000, said Kain. Progress has promised to have the work done in time for Quest Air to host the U.S. Hang Gliding National meet from April 15 to April 23. Kain said she'd rather not have power lines anywhere near the airport but the agreement reached with Progress Energy is a good one. "It still doesn't mean someone won't get fried but it's a lot better," she said.