Oklahoma Moves On Marking Temporary Towers

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Oklahoma legislators have passed legislation to help ensure that the sudden appearance of wind evaluation towers doesn't surprise pilots. The new law will require that any temporary towers put up to measure wind speed be amply marked if they are higher than 50 feet. "It's really a simple matter: Higher visibility saves lives. This new law will make it easier for all aircraft that fly at lower altitudes to see these wind evaluation towers and their attendant guy wires during daylight hours," said Oklahoma Director of Aeronautics Victor Bird. "The easier they are to see, the faster they can be avoided. We've already lost too many lives from low-level impact with these towers, and this new law will help correct that."

Under federal regulations, the minimum height for marking towers is 200 feet. With the proliferation of wind power across much of the country those in the industry go prospecting by putting up towers to test the energy availability and often the testing towers just a little shorter than that. The new towers don't appear on any charts, nor are they normally announced in any way and can surprise pilots who fly close to the ground. The new rule will require companies to issue notification of the location of new towers and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission will determine how to make them visible. "Many types of aircraft that fly at lower altitudes have found it difficult to see and avoid these towers, which until now have been erected and moved to new locations without notification," said Bird. "Air ambulance flights, aerial applicators ("crop dusters"), law enforcement aircraft and even civilian aircraft have been caught by surprise by these towers in the past, resulting in four fatalities in Oklahoma and surrounding states."