A Mixed Message On Met Towers

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The FAA is suggesting that if the folks who are putting up met towers wouldn't mind, it would be nice if they would paint them so aviators have a better chance of seeing them. That's the gist of the proposed policy that the FAA is now taking comments on. Met towers, if you haven't run across them yet, are set up by landowners who are considering installing a wind turbine. They are generally left in place for a year or more and collect meteorological data. If they are less than 200 feet tall, there is currently no requirement at all to try to make them visible to pilots, or to notify the FAA about their location. Coincidentally, many of the towers... including the one that a California ag pilot fatally crashed into earlier this month... run about 197 feet high. They are tall, narrow, unmarked, supported by guy wires, and good luck seeing them before it's too late.

A proposed policy recently published by the FAA provides recommendations for how the towers should be painted and marked, if the owners choose to do so, but compliance is not required. It would be left up to the met-tower owners to comply or not, as they like. I find it hard to believe that many of them will opt to take on the extra effort and expense, if it's purely voluntary.

One of the comments at the FAA site was filed by a member of the Army National Guard in Idaho. A couple of met towers were installed with no warning in the low-level training area used by his unit. "The way we found them," he wrote, "was during a night-vision training mission... the crew caught a reflection from the anti-collision light on the aircraft." The crew later went back to see what it was and discovered the tower. "The rotor blades had to be just about over the tower for the light to reflect back," he wrote. He added that voluntary compliance was not his preference.

It seems to me the FAA should decide if these towers are a safety problem, or not. If they're not, then leave them alone. But if they need to be painted and illuminated so pilots can see them, that should be mandated, rather than suggested.

Comments (178)

Marginally visible MET towers placed near crop dusting areas are a safety hazard. Their owners should be legally responsible for creating such hazards. A few 50 million dollar wrongful death judgements should encourage the tower owners to be good citizens.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | January 31, 2011 6:49 AM    Report this comment

Anyone flying BELOW 200' should have their head examined. Anyone flying below 200'at NIGHT should expect disaster. It's a non-issue for General Aviation.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 7:44 AM    Report this comment

The accident was at 1057 local time, hardly at night.

As for flying below 200 feet AGL, that is the essence of aerial application.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | January 31, 2011 8:16 AM    Report this comment

OH Mark! You are obviously not a pilot. How are you supposed to land if you never fly below 200'? How is that Air Ambulance pilot expected to save you, or a loved one, when you call for help if the pilot can not see low level obstructions? Agricultural aviation is the reason why you are not paying $10.00 for a loaf of bread! Please do some research before adding another stupid comment.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | January 31, 2011 8:23 AM    Report this comment

"Non-issue"? Aerial applicators, wildlife capture/surveys, scenic aerial photography, military and law enforcement aircraft, border patrol...there are numerous missions that legitimately find themselves at 200 ft from time to time in remote areas. These unlit, unmarked towers are a major safety issue and the FAA needs to mandate painting and at least a minimal beacon. Sticking up safety hazards like this that are just a couple feet below the FAA requirement for marking...and intentionally making them blend in with surroundings...is not responsible. A few bucks for paint and a light can easily be built into each contract.

Posted by: Bob Martin | January 31, 2011 8:28 AM    Report this comment

There are many legitimate reasons a GA pilot could be operating near or below 200 ft AGL. Pipeline and power line inspections are frequently conducted at or near that altitude under an operational waiver from the FAA. Those MET towers are very difficult to see. I narrowly missed one of those things that had been recently erected near a power line sub station. I never did see it. My observer saw it at the last second but not in time to tell me. I had flown through the area several weeks before and it had not been there. I have passed on my concerns to the FAA, but it sure would help if there was little bit of cooperation from fellow pilots on the matter.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2011 8:53 AM    Report this comment

I guess this is one of those rare times the GA community wants the FAA to become involved and add more regulations or make the existing ones more restrictive. This is a terrible tragedy for the family of the California pilot who hit one, but we should resist the knew-jerk reaction to add more regulations.

Posted by: Ryan Turner | January 31, 2011 9:51 AM    Report this comment

It's UNREASONABLE to claim everything from 0-199' for GA traffic. There are a billion other interests in the world other than GA and the general public should not expect GA to be buzzing their property.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 10:01 AM    Report this comment

There are many reasons to be at or below 200 feet. I'll add sailplanes and gyrocopters to the list. No one expects to find a 20 story, hard to see tower in open land areas. We need high visible paint and lights. We all need to work together. It is not UNREASONABLE for people to understand a problem and what each side can do to minimizes the risk.

Posted by: Robert Ewers | January 31, 2011 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Their property, their right to put up a tower. You're a guest so all you can do is ask for a favor.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 10:45 AM    Report this comment

Mark Fraser probably could have expressed it better, but I think he is expressing the same general opinion I hold when my fellow pilots complain about the erection of relatively short structures that are not immediately adjacent to airports, namely that you are on your own if you fly below 500 AGL.
HOWEVER, having said that I would note that these wind survey towers are quasi-temporary, pop up in totally unexpected places, and are essentially invisible until you are right on top of them.
In descending down sloping terrain toward my home airport from the north I angle downward over a constantly expanding windpower area and have been startled a couple of times by these thin guyed rods newly erected up to only a few hundred feet below my altitude. Paint would not help (they are too thin to see color), but a strobe on top would be a great improvement.

Posted by: John Wilson | January 31, 2011 10:52 AM    Report this comment

I agree there needs to be a solution, but it is not entirely clear to me what it is. There are a LOT of towers less than 200', including countless cell phone and two-way radio towers. The FAA is caught between a rock and an hard place in that they want these MET towers marked, but they probably cannot make a rule that ALL towers under 200' must be marked the same as towers over 200'. There are, for example, cell phone towers in the U.S. which have been required to be disguised as trees and other things in order to satisfy neighborhood groups. There would be a court fight if a new FAA rule forced those to be red/white with red lights or strobe lit. There would also likely be a court fight on the basis of discrimination if the FAA singled out MET towers for mandatory marking without requiring marking of towers used for other purposes with the same height. So far what the FAA is attempting seems a reasonable first step, if it works. If owners of these hard-to-see towers follow the FAA's urging to make then easier to see, the problem would largely be solved. A simple strobe light is not expensive to install. If the FAA's encouragement doesn't work, then it's back to the drawing board for the FAA, but without giving it a lot more thought, I cannot think of a specific rule that would satisfy both safety and the common good in all cases.

Posted by: Scott Wilson | January 31, 2011 11:08 AM    Report this comment

Reading the cited accident report, it says that the met tower was there for a long time. It's just a bad accident that could have been avoided. A lesson for all Ag operators to at least look at fields diving into them.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, should have been "before" diving into them.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 12:08 PM    Report this comment

I concur with Scott that the notion of more FAA regulation in this matter presents a conundrum. There are just too many <200' structures to have a one-size ruling that fits all.
I do note, though, that a cell tower in our area that is located along a freeway "flyway" notch transited by EMS choppers & others was retrofitted with strobe lites some time after erection. Not sure how this came to happen, but I suspect they did it voluntarily in response to voiced concerns. Of course the wind towers are typically placed in areas with no utilities, making lighting a somewhat more expensive proposition.
Guess the only viable answer is to be damn careful when you skim a remote hilltop or do a job in a field you haven't visited lately.

Posted by: John Wilson | January 31, 2011 12:52 PM    Report this comment

The legal authority to regulate marking/lighting of structures above 200' AGL comes from 14 CFR Part 77, which is a federal regulation passed by Congress. Anything below 200 feet (unless it's close to an airport), the FAA has no jurisdiction so the best they can do is ask nicely. Cell towers are regulated by the FCC, so they can join forces with the FAA in mitigating airspace concerns. MET towers can only currently be regulated by local zoning ordinances. So if you're looking for stronger words from the FAA, they can't provide it unless Congress decides to amend Part 77. Talk with your local planning commission.

Posted by: Donald Harper | January 31, 2011 1:33 PM    Report this comment

Interesting point, Donald, regarding the limits of FAA jurisdiction. Also, regarding Bob Martin's post, I am not aware that any MET towers have been constructed in a way to deliberately try to blend in with the surroundings... I think that is just because they are tall and skinny and generally grayish in color.

Posted by: Mary Grady | January 31, 2011 1:53 PM    Report this comment

Mary, all aviators (should) all know that the FAA has no airspace authority below 200' away from airports. That's the "why" met towers are built up to 199'. It's also the "why" it's crazy to try to fly below 200' and even think it should be safe.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 31, 2011 4:03 PM    Report this comment

I have done a few wildlife survey flights in the Oklahoma panhandle and can say that these towers are hard to see. If the FAA has no authority to fix this, someone else does,and they should use it.

Posted by: Barrett Roessler | January 31, 2011 8:47 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Fraser's remarks are not appropriate. Ag-pilots are required to fly below 200 feet during applications due to the nature of the job. They are professional and skilled, not crazy. Aerial application is inherently dangerous, but that does not mean there is no less a need for safety. As one commenter stated, the towers are too thin for painting to be effective. Actually, a strobe may not be sufficient. The aerial application industry already has software incorporated into their GPS units (similar to your 696) that will give them tower locations, albeit the ones above 200'. The solution is an accessible mapping database with a notification system upon the erection of the tower. The FAA does not have to regulate the towers, which would be a regulation on a non-aviation entity, not pilots. The forthcoming liability will dictate capital business will prevail with those involved with MET towers voluntarily working with mapping services that are already in place (Rockford Maps).

Posted by: Bill Lavender | February 1, 2011 6:58 AM    Report this comment

I would be careful about opening a can of worms. If you impose visual pollution (bright paint, flashing lights) it makes it easier to say the better answer is to restrict aircraft -- nasty, noisy, polluting things piloted by rich sods who just want to peer into our back yards and frighten the cats..... you get the drift.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | February 1, 2011 7:54 AM    Report this comment

If one Ag pilots refuses to preflight a field, why should that force everyone else to paint the world? Seriously.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 8:06 AM    Report this comment

If one Ag pilots refuses to preflight a field, why should that force everyone else to paint the world? Seriously.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 8:07 AM    Report this comment

Seriously? You don't get it Mark, Even when you pre-fly a field these are nearly impossible to see in the daytime, The operation I work at flys at night for about 60 to 70% of our total hours

Posted by: christopher nolta | February 1, 2011 9:49 AM    Report this comment

In one of the reports I read, an ag pilot had checked the field the day before, and when he returned early the next day to fly, the tower was up.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 1, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

The more dangerous the flight regime, them more you have to find out BEFORE flight. "I" would not fly below tree level into a field unless I walked off the area prior to flight. Tedious? Sure. But I don't care when MY life is on the line.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Obviously, the passionate Mr. Fraser is not a fan of cooperative solutions to problems :-)
I think Bill Lavender has the correct solution; a (relatively) simple and free-to-use national database into which coordinates of structures in the 100-200 foot range must be loaded as they are erected. The AG industry could then incorporate this data as they do the FAA-registered structures.
A similar system is currently used in documenting buried utilities to reduce incidence of the dreaded "backhoe fade" (cables cut by someone digging)

Posted by: John Wilson | February 1, 2011 11:10 AM    Report this comment

John, a national Law is not "cooperative". A cooperative solution is for Ag pilots to work with their clients. That is as simple as it is effective as it gets.

Would a pilot really trust Joe Public to enter every transient thing, do so with 100% accuracy, and remember to update when things move? Who verifies this open database?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Mark, Your comments show your understanding of low-altitude operations is limited. Crop Dusting aside may I ask how an Air Tanker pilot is supposed to know where to scout before a drop is to be made in the smoke of a fire approaching a housing development? Or how a med flight crew is to scout an area to be landed next to an accident in the dark with night vision goggles when they don't know where the accident will be? Or how an Air Guard helicopter crew that is dispatched to perform a search and rescue mission in inclement weather is supposed to take the time to scout the area that they are to search when they don't know where the person will be lost or need to be rescued? Or how a police helicopter chasing a crackhead in the dark is supposed to know where said crackhead will run to know where they should have searched? Or how a Customs and Border patrol helicopter will get the illegals to stop running and turn a different direction when they are headed into an area they haven't scouted yet? Or how a Fish and Game net gunning team will convince a herd of Big Horn Sheep to quit running in the direction they haven't scouted yet?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 12:55 PM    Report this comment

The fact that these towers are advertised as erectable in one day by a crew of two and are moved with no rhyme or reason other than the results of wind data from a given location make it so that any scouting is basically void within 24 hours. Do you how much money, time, and resources would go into scouting instead of performing the actual job they are supposed to. Wake up Mark, we're all here to help show you how real world low-altitude operations work and the jobs that are performed in the interest of directly helping or enhancing the quality of life for others while we are down there below 200'. Let us stop focusing PURELY ON AG AVIATION AS THE ONLY USER. George J. Parker III President, Idaho Agricultural Aviation Association

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Oh and Mark, One point FOR crop dusters; In the event of a large scale grasshopper contract in the desert, like let's say 40,000 to 70,000 acres in size that may take up to two weeks to finish does that mean that the contractor would need to have multiple people in multiple vehicles EVERY DAY go out and scout the unfinished portion of the block OVER AND OVER to remain safe in case one was erected out of sight of USDA ground personnel? George

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Also in the case of a fire rehabilitation contract for the BLM or US Forest Service that may take weeks to accomplish should we do the same instead of marking the towers once, look for them every single day of operation within a multiple square mile operations area. Just sayin'. Your friend, George

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

Oh Mark, It's me again. For the fixed-wing military operators that need low-altitude military training routes to fly A-10's, F-16's, and F-15's on at up to 500 knots they like four miles either side of center for the whole length of the route to be cleared and marked for obstacles. Should we have THOUSANDS of miles of MTR's checked daily at our tax payers expense to keep those pilots safe?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:10 PM    Report this comment

Yoohoo...Mark, The USDA-APHIS-ADC coyote hunters in the Piper Super Cubs in seventeen western states. Are they supposed to know where the coyote populations are going to exceed acceptable levels ahead of time and then go scout that area. Then re-scout the area every 24 to 48 hours. And if a cattle rancher calls with a problem outside of that area I guse they'll just tell him he'll have to wait a day to get help so they can scout.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:14 PM    Report this comment

Say Mark, The seismic helicopters being utilized to search out new mining or drilling sites in the west.......Should they now DOUBLE the cost to do so because now they would have to fly it once ABOVE 200' to scout, then fly it again as they normally would to do the research?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:17 PM    Report this comment

Um Mark, one more. The BLM contact helicopters that are used to help relocate horses and burros from the western deserts. Are they supposed to STOP the roundup when the horses start running in an unscouted direction and then charge to scout real quick then drop back down and begin the roundup again?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Mark, Just thought you should know that for some of not only the military MTR's but also the military operations area's (MOA's) the floors go down to 100'. That leaves 96' of opportunity for a military jet to hit one.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Mark, I have flown below 200' for over 13,000 hours helping to feed you and I don't believe I need my head examined. I do believe I need to help educate people with your perspective on low-altitude operations as to the realities, users, and procedures down there. Let's consider this a start!

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 1:54 PM    Report this comment

Saaaay Mark, On you're scouting policy when YOUR life at stake. WALKING all of these different types of low altitude operations areas by all of these different flight crews soooooo in the interest of efficiency you might think, well fly it then. Lemme tell ya CHIEF, I've got some pictures taken from less than 1300 feet from one of these things from about 225' off the ground, 180 degrees out from each other, 30 seconds apart and in the one direction you can't see it at all! they were printed in the last winter's "Rudder Flutter" magazine, the Idaho TD- Aeronautics publication. You can google it.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 2:14 PM    Report this comment

OK, So much for common sense.

You want an open database so everyone can enter data and let pilots use it? Who get's sued if the data is wrong?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 2:36 PM    Report this comment

Mark, We don't care as much about a database as we do the MANDATORY MARKING WITH BALLS, PAINT, CABLE SHIELDS, AND LIGHTING WITH A SPECTRUM VISIBLE TO BOTH THE NAKED EYE AND NIGHT VISION GOGGLES. The database is a great idea and should piggyback this idea but they go up and down so frequently and so numerous that it will be hard to keep up with that. There is also the thought that many pilots have hit obstacles THEY KNEW WERE THERE so it stands to reason that something to help said pilot SEE the tower BEFORE he hits it would be better. Probably the same people to sue right now while we do nothing. What is not common sense about saving pilots lives Mark?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 2:47 PM    Report this comment

By the way Mark, just you have some idea of what we're up against. At the end of summer I did some research and right now, IN IDAHO ALONE there are between 400 and 600 of these towers erected today, the overwhelming majority UNMARKED. That's 400 to 600 opportunities to kill a flight crew of one of the 15 LEGAL, LEGITIMATE, low-altitude uses. Does that seem like common sense Mark?

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 2:55 PM    Report this comment

Mandatory markings for every CB radio tower, chimney, wire and tree that's less than 199 feet tall? Nationwide?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Oh Mark, Just so we're clear on a couple of things too. It is YOUR property, YOU most certainly do NOT own the airspace above it. You may want to consult with the FAA. I believe many of these uses are considered GA so IT IS AN ISSUE FOR GA. We personally are not claiming 0-199', someone may be but we are not. WE ARE CLAIMING 50'-199'.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:00 PM    Report this comment

No Mark, stay focused. Just the nearly invisible single-pole, guy wired structures from 50'-above. We can see trees and chimneys, they have some substance to attract your eye.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:02 PM    Report this comment

Yes, nationwide if the FAA is involved.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:03 PM    Report this comment

"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of your time, and it annoys the pig."

Posted by: John Wilson | February 1, 2011 3:05 PM    Report this comment

Trees and chimneys also don't suddenly move a mile or so one way or another at times as met towers do. They are planted or built and stay there. Usually if I see a chimney move a couple of miles it's attached to a house and on the road with yellow lights and a "wide load" sign. REAL easy to see!

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:05 PM    Report this comment

Oh Mark, On lines.....they are strung between large, visible, derricks or poles and they are in a contiguous linear fashion and they stay in the same place for YEARS. As such another handy feature is their placement on a neato little thing called an Aeronautical Sectional Chart that we use for flying. So that's not a problem. MOST towers ABOVE 200' are also marked, placed on sectional charts, AND put in aviation GPS databases. Met towers are not, thus their danger.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:19 PM    Report this comment

Guys please do keep in mind AVweb's "keep it civil" rules. I don't think the line has been crossed yet but it seems to be getting closer.... thanks!

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 1, 2011 3:28 PM    Report this comment

Mary...Yes, my sense of humor overrode my better judgment, apologies to all. I promise to be gooder henceforth.

Posted by: John Wilson | February 1, 2011 3:47 PM    Report this comment

To "Ryan Turner", This is not a knee-jerk by the way. The current met tower NPRM was put out a week BEFORE Steve was killed. My national association, the NAAA, had been meeting with the FAA almost bi-weekly for a couple of months this last fall about this matter. Funny enough their really wasn't any push after the first fatality in Texas in 2005. Wyoming's marking legislation was passed in April of 2009. South Dakota's in 2010. I have been working on this in Idaho with ITD-Division of Aeronautics for over 16 months now on independent Idaho legislation. It has also been worked on in Nebraska, Minnesota, and North Dakota for over 6 months now. The feds just got involved last summer because they saw us actually getting something done on a per state basis.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Fellow pilots. There are 600,000+ licensed radio amateurs in the US, with an active lobbying organization. There are 401 licensed commercial ag pilots in the US. Pick a more realistic fight.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | February 1, 2011 4:06 PM    Report this comment

One more time. We AREN'T trying to mark ham radio operators towers in the vicinity of homes, shops, etc. We are looking to mark the SINGLE-POLE, GUY-WIRED STRUCTURES used for wind data gathering. I believe there are around 3,000 ag pilots and 1,600 operators. AGAIN, IT'S NOT JUST US USING THE AIRSPACE. 15 LEGAL, LEGITIMATE USES BOTH CIVILIAN AND MILITARY.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 4:14 PM    Report this comment

George. The 401 statistic came from the NAAA website. Okay, say 3000, We still lose. A tower is a tower, and those homebrew radio deals pretty much are 'single pole, guy-wired structures' between 50' and 199'.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | February 1, 2011 4:24 PM    Report this comment

Now, that said... anyone who puts up a temporary structure, just short enough to dodge the law, in an area where known low-altitude operations take place regularly, and doesn't mark it VERY conspicuously is guilty (IMVHO) of wilful, vicious negligence at the very least.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | February 1, 2011 4:27 PM    Report this comment

Aircraft operate under FAA rules. The FAA has no jurisdictional below 200'. The words "at your OWN risk" apply here.

All the "chatter" about ham towers and trees shows the wisdom of the FAA. You can't make realistic rules for EVERYTHING from surface to 199'.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 1, 2011 4:32 PM    Report this comment

Yes, "stay focused". Lot of good stuff in this thread, but also much smoke screen apparently intended to divert from the problem, which is 190-foot tall virtually invisible masts that are popping up mostly in totally open terrain away from all buildings. This a true problem and it has nothing whatsoever to do with marking or lighting Ham antennas, chimmneys, etc.
I still say a database would be the most cost-effective improvement, and can't agree with the folks who in essence are saying it would be just too difficult, too expensive or too intrusive to craft narrowly targeted requirements for reporting and distributing near-realtime data on these things. In virtually every part of the country they already have to pull local permits before erecting them, so how would putting the info into a central database be so big a deal?
And it doesn't have to be "100% effective" either, that's just more smoke. No program or system is ever 100% effective, think about how many times you or (for you perfect types) someone you know, failed to become aware of a NOTAM on something. Rational people don't reject making something "better" because they can't make it "perfect".

Posted by: John Wilson | February 1, 2011 4:48 PM    Report this comment

Glenn, You bring up a very good point and I have had to debate that with my own Transportation Department already. From my humble experience of flying under 200' for 13,000 hours in 17,000 hours of flying in 17 states; MOST ham or company radio antennas are inside incorporated municipalities, met towers are not. MOST ham radio antennas or company radio antennas are in the vicinity of a building, farm yard, etc., met towers are in the open, and unpredictably positioned. I can tell you in my own area of FIVE personal antennas, they have been FIXED in the same spot for years and don't move. I know where they are and two of them are of a triangle, lattice construction to give them some "meat" to be able to see. On the other hand I can take you to over 25 met towers (that I have seen) in the same radius of space with some that have moved at least once and more coming.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 5:35 PM    Report this comment

Our idea is to only require marking outside of municipalities where these operations occur for the single pole, guy wired structures. Mark, The FAA has none NOW, but they still care about that space. Bottom line is the single pole, guy wired towers put out all over the place for wind data gathering have to be marked for air safety. We've had two deaths and three documented hits in under six years. As someone who has almost been killed by hitting one I think that was enough. All of the low-altitude users I have spoken with ALL have a story about almost hitting one of THOSE towers. Not a chimney, or tree, or ham tower at a house or shop. THOSE are our problem and maybe the FAA won't buy off on it, so be it but the first time one brings down a life-flight helicopter with three of four on board, or a CBP helicopter with three or four on board and they all get killed the tune will change. I will still be here with my experience and allies who feel the same way as people who strap on flying machines to work in that environment every day. Pleasure sharing perspective with you. Comments end soon, we'll see.

Posted by: George Parker | February 1, 2011 5:51 PM    Report this comment

There are many people out there just like Mark who will not change their preconceived ideas no matter how many facts are presented to them. Their minds are made up, and NO one will change them. What the average consumer of today does not realize, is just how incredibly important agrucultural aircraft are to food and fiber production industry worldwide! Ag aviation has virtually illiminated the cotton boll weevil here in the US. We would be wearing polyester underwear if it were not for the boll weevil eradication programs. As the US population increases, the available cropland for food production decreases; therefore, this land must be used to it's fullest potential. This is accomplished by the controlled application of EPA approved economic poisons. The most efficient method to apply them is by aircraft. I know Mark doesen't want to hear any of this, and he is only worried about the airplanes "scaring his cats". The erection of these towers in agricultural use areas are outright criminal! The compinies that put them up should at least notify every Ag operator in that vicinity of the location of a new tower.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | February 1, 2011 9:35 PM    Report this comment

In reading this accident, the tower was well known in the area and there for over a year and a half. In reading NTSB accidents with similar aircraft, the accident pattern indicates that crashes are more due to pilot error and mechanical problems.

Realistically, it would be impossible to tag all existing obstructions. The FAA "suggesting" that new met towers are colorful still does not remove the major causes of low altitude accidents nor the myriad of existing structures.

It's not worth getting worked up over a single freak accident. Safety comes form addressing the normal accident causes like pilotage, equipment, and weather. Starting to label new towers for just a tiny segment of GA will is fine, just nearly insignificant as an overall safety concern.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 2, 2011 8:37 AM    Report this comment

Mark, you are correct that overall MET towers are not a concern for most of GA. However, for those of us operating professionally and legally (Part 137, etc.) below 200', it is a serious concern. It is our workplace. We should have as safe of a work environment as possible. In this day of computers and technology, as stated earlier about obtaining permits, it would not be a big deal to register the unit and be incorporated into a database. Then, the onus would fall on the pilot (right, the pilot has the responsibility to check the field as all do to some degree, just can't always see a MET tower). Already, aerial applicators in most states, particularly CA, have to go through a notification process before making each and every application. Why wouldn't the shoe fit for the MET tower industry? It would be a double notification for each tower, erection and de-erection (is that a word?). Whereas, aerial applicators make thousands of notices each spray season. One would think, the grower and the MET tower company would have the responsibility to do this voluntarily. Some attorney is going to have a hay-day with this, easily proving gross negligence, IMO. Like you wrote, MET towers don't concern the majority of GA. We are beating a dead horse on this forum at this point. It served well to inform GA about the problem low level pilots are facing. We have a valid reason to address the issue. Why fight it? Chau, Bill Lavender www.agairupdate.com

Posted by: Bill Lavender | February 2, 2011 9:25 AM    Report this comment

Mark, if you'd share your email address I'd like to send you a few photos of MET towers taken in our area so you can see for yourself just how near impossible they are to see. Simply saying 'the tower was there for yrs so the pilot should have known' is irresponsible. Working around a nearly invisible obstacle regardless of how long you've known its there is a recipe for disaster, if I can't see the tower from 1/2 mile away except at certain angles and against certain backgrounds how exactly am I to avoid it?

The speed at which these towers are erected (4-5 hrs) and there recent proliferation across the midwest ensures this is not and will not be a freak accident.

Your comments about ag pilots "working with our clients" and surveying the field being the resolution for this problem show a high level of ignorance about ag flying in general.

Posted by: Bruce VanBeek | February 2, 2011 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I COMPLETELY AGREE; Ag pilots and tower companies are the ones who ultimately need to cooperate for their mutual benefit. Both are making money and both don't want their hardware broken. I don't have any problem at all with commercial Ag pilots working with commercial tower companies to avoid problems in their shared workplace.

I also completely agree with the FAA. They have no jurisdiction in that shared space. It's up to the players to "work it out".

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 2, 2011 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Here are a couple of links with professional photos of MET towers and ag-aircraft together. Mind you, the photographer is standing still through a focused, high powered lens, not moving at 140 mph looking through a dirty windscreen with the sun shining in his eyes or during low light ops at early morning, late evening, not to mention night ops. Hopefully the pdfs will open for all, as these are taken from the members-only section of agaviation.org.

http://www.agaviation.org/sites/default/files/ad2.pdf

http://www.agaviation.org/sites/default/files/ad5.pdf

Posted by: Bill Lavender | February 2, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

BTW Mark, sincerely, Thank You for bringing out the "other side of the coin" viewpoint. It has helped stimulate a good repoire amongst pilots.

As for the pdf links, they appear combined, so they'll need separating at pdf http: Sorry about that.

Posted by: Bill Lavender | February 2, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

The Met tower photos also can be accessed via the AVweb story posted at http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/FAASuggestsMarkingsForMetTowers_204020-1.html

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 2, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Bill, thanks for the NAAA link. NAAA seems to have more of a beef with the DOE than it does with the FAA. The DOE is promoting all sorts of towers. It's the sheer number of new obstructions that are in/near prime farmland more so than the transient met tower that precedes the permanent structures being installed.

Met towers are a problem, but just the tip of the iceberg of what's showing up in fields...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 2, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Lets focus on getting rid of the 3rd class medical, AOPA needs to put its lobbying muscle behind really key issues of importance to its members.

Posted by: Michael Sheridan | February 2, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Lets focus on getting rid of the 3rd class medical, AOPA needs to put its lobbying muscle behind really key issues of importance to its members.

Posted by: Michael Sheridan | February 2, 2011 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Somebody touched a nerve I'd say. What I'm hearing: "The government has no business telling us what to do below 200 feet, its the pilots fault if he hasn't anticipated the danger of flying below 200 feet and taken measures." vs "It is perfectly legitimate to fly below 200 feet, it is not practical nor really feasible to locate these towers ahead of time, these towers are a threat because they are transitory, virtually instant and impossible to see." WHAT I THINK,(not that anyone cares,): The fact that the towers are 1 foot short of regulation, and that no attempt is made to make them visible shows a simultaneous knowledge of the hazard they might present and an indifference to addressing it. I do not see any eagerness to address the problem coming out of their. The problem with the towers is that they are invisible, make them visible. Around PDX the contractors put flags and strobes on their little truck cranes how hard could it be. Of course you don't put flags on trees and big fat cell phone towers there not that hard to see. If the energy company won't do it on their own,(whats their incentive,) make more law. Sorry but I don't see what the big deal is.

Posted by: robert miller | February 2, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

"The government has no business telling us what to do below 200 feet"

Robert, the accident in question happened BELOW 50'. At such a very low altitude it's impossible to require everyone and everything to be "aircraft friendly".

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 2, 2011 3:12 PM    Report this comment

Mark, the tower in question was not 50' tall and how high the aircraft struck the tower is irrelevant. The advisory circular in question was written to deal with a very specific issue, please stop misconstruing the argument here into "us" wanting everything under the sun marked.

It seems a bit interesting that NRG Systems, a company which sells the equipment installed on these towers, has submitted comments favorable to this proposed Advisory Circular.

The fear of liability perhaps?

Posted by: Bruce VanBeek | February 2, 2011 5:28 PM    Report this comment

"The fear of liability perhaps?"

I'd say the a company who's made towers for 30 years without any incidents is always open to suggestions.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 2, 2011 7:25 PM    Report this comment

Apparently NRG systems have the answer: LIDAR No invisible towers to snare cropdusters, air ambulances and our young men in uniform; just a box full of electronic magic.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 2, 2011 8:26 PM    Report this comment

The National Agricultural Aviation Association is dedicated to creating a safer environment for all pilots in the low level arena such as Agricultural, Life Flight, Search and Rescue, Power line and Pipeline patrol and the Military to name a few. The NAAA has developed a safety program called PAASS (Professional Aerial Applicator Support System. This program is presented across the nation to virtually all the aerial applicators nationwide. As a presenter of this program I can assure you that the number one concern of pilots involved in low level operations is MET towers. An aerial strike of one of these towers is almost always fatal, as proven tragically just a few weeks ago. These Towers are being erected at an alarming rate and have been proven DEADLY! I urge you to adopt the NAAA’s guidelines for the marking of MET towers. A few simple steps can easily make the difference between life or death.

Posted by: Leif Isaacson | February 2, 2011 10:23 PM    Report this comment

One very good thing could come of this discussion on AvWeb's forum: Express your feelings about MET towers to the FAA. To its credit, the FAA has requested comments on its MET tower Advisory Circular that ends tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 4. Regardless of your opinion, here is an opportunity to express your feelings where it really matters. The following link will take you to the 2011-1326 docket number on regulations.gov. Or you can visit the site and search for the docket number. You will also be able to read other comments, as well as the full docket. I plead with readers of this forum to take a few minutes to post a comment, even if it is only one sentence.

http://www.regulations.gov/#%21searchResults;dct=N+PR+FR+O;cp=O;rpp=10;so=DESC;sb=postedDate;po=0;s=2010-1326

Thank you fellow pilots. Bill Lavender / AgAir Update

Posted by: Bill Lavender | February 3, 2011 7:17 AM    Report this comment

Looking at the pictures of these towers, I don't see that painting them orange and white is going to go very far in making them more visible. They are just too narrow. Lighting may be effective at night and low light conditions. A solution I haven't seen discussed is adding some of those orange balls they place on power lines to the tower body and/or the guy lines.

Posted by: Terje Stoneman | February 3, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

The part I'm a little confused about for the ag pilots, they obviously have some business relationship with the farmers whose fields they spray. So, can't they set their terms for "safe workplace" in the contracts?

The farmers whose fields are being sprayed must be aware that met towers are being put up on their property, right??

Is there a reason the ag operators can't say if you contract us to spray part of the terms is any met towers are _______ . Blank being whatever they want for a "safe workplace". Gone, lighted, coordinates supplied, whatever. Why can't that work?

Posted by: B Noel | February 3, 2011 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Why not just add strobes every 40 feet or so and put orange balls on the guy wires as one poster suggested? You can't tell me that is too expensive, especially when compared to the cost of a human life.

Posted by: Art Jackson | February 3, 2011 1:43 PM    Report this comment

"You can't tell me that is too expensive, especially when compared to the cost of a human life."

It IS too expensive when even Ag pilots won't pony up the time/money to work with their clients to do it. Evidently they would rather take the risk than take the time to make their own survey or even talk with the landowners about hazards.

No, everyone else has to paint the world reflective so they don't have to change one bit.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 3, 2011 2:23 PM    Report this comment

You guys are still looking at this as an "only ag pilot" thing eh? Didn't I explain enough different legal, legitimate types of operation before Mark? STOP including structures other than remotely placed single pole, guy wired met towers, and STOP looking at this as a problem for only ag pilots flying in small individual farm fields. At least you're persistent!

Posted by: George Parker | February 3, 2011 3:50 PM    Report this comment

By the way Mark it might be time to come clean with the group on what dog you have in this race because to be this staunch in attitude and vocal about something you seem to know nothing about you sure would have to have some interest in the other side of this game.

Posted by: George Parker | February 3, 2011 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Is there a reason, though George, why ag operators can't work with their clients to make sure met towers are marked? Not so much that I'm against asking for markings but I don't totally understand why the ag guys are powerless in controlling their situation.

Posted by: B Noel | February 3, 2011 5:16 PM    Report this comment

FOR US, NOT THE OTHER 14 USERS INVOLVED; Can I ask a couple of particular farmers about met towers on their farms, yes. However, the one I was nearly killed on five years ago was put there at the request of the farmer during the winter between praying seasons and he never thought to mention it's placement to the manager when he booked the work. I had flown that farm the season before and knew of the other three towers' placement. I now put a request into my spring customer letter reminding them to tell me of any new towers on their farms but it has only worked with two of them. The others may rent ground away from their home place and never even go there themselves through the course of planting in the spring to know if one is present and half of the Mexican labor doesn't know enough or care to speak up. Many of the fieldmen that do drive to a field when scouting just don't think to look up to see if houses, towers, sensitive crops, etc. are around. So it is risky at best to rely on second hand information from them too. The ground rental issue is the most common though. It's not theirs but for one summer so they don't care what is on it or around it. And that only covers the FARM CROP side of it!

Posted by: George Parker | February 3, 2011 5:58 PM    Report this comment

My government contracting side can be even more confusing as the contracting officer in charge of a given seed contract may not be the actual property manager and if the right information does not get handed through the channels he may not know to tell me what is 10 miles east over on the other side of the project if he's never driven there.I'll say it again too, everyone overlooked this statement earlier. MOST PILOTS HIT WIRES THEY KNEW WERE THERE! Thus something on the tower to get the eye's attention is far better than something you talked about and marked on a map in a room seven hours ago when you were fresh and alert before the days issues began.

Posted by: George Parker | February 3, 2011 5:58 PM    Report this comment

"what dog you have in this race"

My "dog" is reason. The sky is not falling. The accident had nothing to do with a new tower, a mobile tower, an unknown tower, nor was it caused by a uniquely tall or uniquely thin tower. Nor is their any data to suggest a color combination makes any kind of thin tower superior in visibility under the same conditions.

To make the leap that this one accident illustrates that met towers are particularly dangerous over any of the other low level obstructions (that are being struck with regularity) is just not reasonable. They are just one more hazard in a sea of hazards when flying fixed wing below 50'.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 4, 2011 9:55 AM    Report this comment

THREE accidents Mark, TWO deaths, under six years.

The first accident WAS because of a new tower and the fact that it WAS uniquely invisible. The tower was only up for 15 days when it was hit. There is plenty of data to suggest that paint, balls, and cable shields add visibility. Otherwise why would we paint 201' and larger towers, put balls on power lines that cross canyons and rivers or cross the end of a runway, or put cable shields on power pole guy wires that encroach on field edges where farm equipment runs or next to roadsides where mowers work. BECAUSE THEY INCREASE VISIBILITY! Where are you getting your data? I'm getting mine from 17,000 hours of flying in a real world environment. You're right it is not reasonable to state that ONE accident illustrates that. I do believe that three accidents and two deaths in under six years from a type of structure that will continue to increase in number as the country tries to fulfill a federal mandate of a certain percentage of renewable energy by a certain date is.

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

WOOF!

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 11:04 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I also suppose you're going to say that a strobe will not increase visibility for day and night operations too. Have one with an LED with a night vision goggle visible spectrum will not help the EMS, law enforcement and military flight crews or mosquito abatement applicators to perform their jobs in the middle of the night. Just eat more carrots, right Mark?

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 11:19 AM    Report this comment

How about electronic warning? Define a nationwide frequency in the VHF comms band for MET tower (and similar hazards) beacons and cropdusting ops. Something similar to 121.5. Equip MET towers et al with very low power beacons with a range of 1/2 mile line of sight. The power draw would be negligible.

Then a warning tone on the comms channel would indicate danger, time to pull up. No additional equipment required on aircraft. T

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 4, 2011 1:30 PM    Report this comment

That's a neato idea, haven't heard of that one before. I suppose there would be a need for two things; Solar power for the remote located towers (which many are) and deactivate feature for the times we are working in the vicinity of one or two of them as is sometimes the case. I guess one could just turn down the radio when working in the vicinity of one. Would this give directional information though? I see a situation where an EMS crew is called to a remote scene call and needs to land in the dark near a freeway, etc. and they are getting "toned" and due to a lack of directional help they can't locate the specific tower they are in the vicinity of with the search light so they are slowing the patient recovery process due to time wasted circling looking for one when they would have just seen the light flashing and felt secure in setting down near the scene.

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 1:45 PM    Report this comment

I can send a signal a thousand miles with one thousandth of a watt. A signal for 1/2 or 1/4 mile would indeed require almost no power to generate.

To an EMS crew, the noise from getting "toned" would be far less annoying than that of twisting metal and the screams of new accident victims.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 4, 2011 1:53 PM    Report this comment

"There is plenty of data to suggest that paint, balls, and cable shields add visibility. "

Yes, and plenty of data that says that EVERYTHING is invisible when looking into a rising/setting sun. Yes, and plenty of data that says that EVERYTHING is invisible after dark. If the risk is real, get forward looking radar on your aircraft. If the risk is real, get night vision assist for after dark.

Strobes may or may not help, I've looked straight through aircraft in the pattern without seeing them even when I know where they should be. The same with radio, ATC can call out traffic at 12 o'clock & 2 miles that goes unseen.

Bottom line is if YOU want 100% protection, get your own radar, FLIR, TCAS, surveys, etc (or it's not worth it to you). Assuming that you will see a spot of paint or a strobe or anything else with your naked eyes is hard enough at altitude, much less when your hands are full and looking at other things while maneuvering below 50'.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 4, 2011 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Chuck, You didn't answer the question, CAN THIS TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE DIRECTIONAL INFORMATION OR NOT? We are not comparing your idea to it or crashing. If that is the case I believe you are correct, it is better than twisted metal and screams. BUT the question is is it better than paint, balls, cable shields and a strobe backed up by an accessible, updatable database? I just flew home for two hours (WAAY above 200 feet!) and pondered the various users needs with this idea for a solution. My cons are; ALL night operations - The problem stated. ALL operations - I'll post this for the third time, WHEN A WIRE STRIKE OCCURS IT IS USUALLY INTO AN OBSTACLE THAT THE PILOT KNEW WAS THERE. So it would help more to have something that would give a visual cue of the footprint and height to the pilot to prevent his/her hitting it given a mental slip up of situational awareness. Fire fighting operations - This work environment is very "radio busy" with multiple aircraft, lead aircraft, dispatch bases, and ground crews calling out drop placement. The last thing these guys would want is a shrill tone in their helmets as they are rolling through the smoke to make a drop in trail of another aircraft with three frequencies already going. Again, it would also not help them identify specific tower placement through reduced visibility or help their ground crews call them out for them either.

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 4:36 PM    Report this comment

ALL operations - In addition to directional information in the case of multiple towers in close proximity (like the California accident) we would need something to tell us how many towers we were getting toned for. It would not be good to get toned for one, see it, and still hit another that was a redundant tone. I can take you to three places where there are three or more towers 2 miles or less from each other. Ag operators - Not all ag planes have a VHF radio to receive this signal, it is not required by the FAA and many that work off of private strips don't have them. NOT the end of the world but just pointing that out. WE DO ALL HAVE EYEBALLS THOUGH, required by the feds to fly! Those of us that do have a VHF radio and frequently work multiple pieces of equipment in the same block or field would need to install a second radio and audio panel to be able to speak with each other and still "guard" the tone freq.

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 4:53 PM    Report this comment

Which brings me to the next point and I will use the analogy of the pilot that lands a retractable gear aircraft with the gear up with a gear warning horn. Given certain flight profiles or cockpit situations where the horn would be blaring for extended periods pilots have muted them or even just pulled the circuit breaker altogether to prevent the shrill scream in the cockpit for extended durations. Then along comes some distraction at the part of the flight that they would normally extend the gear and "home run slide" she goes! I believe the we would run the risk of the same potential with this system when working in close proximity to the towers for extended periods. Either the radio would get turned down to talk to company traffic in the field or base or just turned off altogether to prevent a shrill tone nonstop for thirty minutes or more depending on the project size. Sooooo we use GEAR MIRRORS to LOOK AT to prevent gear up landings (or gear down in the water if your an amphib pilot!) and thus it would be best to provide a visual cue to the pilot to remind him of it's placement. A tone also does not help with depth perception when trying to work in close proximity to one. A guy needs some "meat" to see to aid in depth perception when trying to judge a pull-up over one or when trying to enter the field over one. Paint at the top helps show the actual top of the tower a lot quicker than the metal color.

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 4:54 PM    Report this comment

ALSO when trying to work PAST one and clean up around it it really helps to be able to see the FULL FOOTPRINT of the guy wires and the cable shields at the anchor points help with that a tone would not

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 4:54 PM    Report this comment

Mark, Mark, Mark (deeeep breath) One more time for you; THE EMS CREWS, MILITARY HELICOPTER CREWS, AND CERTAIN NIGHT MOSQUITO ABATEMENT OPERATORS ALL USE NIGHT VISION GOGGLES ALREADY!!!!! I've said that at least once already and my specific phraseology for the strobe requirement is "A LIGHT VISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE AS WELL AS AN LED SPECTRUM VISIBLE TO NIGHT VISION GOGGLES" NVG's have nearly nothing to do with seeing these towers. I know this is gonna push your brain a bit but go to the tool bar on the right hand side and scroll back up to the top of the page and read the article that started this whole blog!!!! She quotes an Air Guard helicopter pilot that nearly hit one on an NVG TRAINING MISSION!! Keep me patient god, please. As far as average purchasable radar capabilities to see these structures I don't know, we could raise that question. I'm sure the military has some, but then why are they concerned?

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Oh Chuck, Another perspective here too. IF we decided that your tone method was the shiznit. Would we then start using that to mark all of the towers above 200', all power lines that cross rivers and canyons where now they have balls, and all obstacles in the vicinity of airports and heliports that currently have the little red lights?

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 5:07 PM    Report this comment

Mark, I didn't want to overlook your progress on the road to recovery though. Considering that your first post was; Anyone flying BELOW 200' should have their head examined. Anyone flying below 200'at NIGHT should expect disaster. It's a non-issue for General Aviation. I feel like;Bottom line is if YOU want 100% protection, get your own radar, FLIR, TCAS, surveys, etc (or it's not worth it to you). Assuming that you will see a spot of paint or a strobe or anything else with your naked eyes is hard enough at altitude, much less when your hands are full and looking at other things while maneuvering below 50'. Is a step in the right direction! Remember the first step is to admit there's a problem!:)

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 5:24 PM    Report this comment

Mark.... I believe your statement; Strobes may or may not help, I've looked straight through aircraft in the pattern without seeing them even when I know where they should be. The same with radio, ATC can call out traffic at 12 o'clock & 2 miles that goes unseen.

Is false.:)

I THINK (see believe) that this is why there are strobes on almost every airplane flying nowadays and every tower starting 3 to 4 feet above the current type that we want to have marked.

So being that you think that strobes "may or may not help"......Does that mean that we should remove all existing strobes from aircraft and towers from 4 feet higher and above than our little problem towers?

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 6:07 PM    Report this comment

The micropower beacon would not provide directional information to a standard COMM receiver. It is a close proximity detector.

Or how about a tower that collapses to ten feet if an airplane approaches?

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 4, 2011 6:19 PM    Report this comment

That would work......unless we were spraying!:)

Posted by: George Parker | February 4, 2011 6:38 PM    Report this comment

I work in the MET industry and take this issue very seriously. We always stress the importance of high visibility markings to our clients and would like to work hand in hand with the men and women in the air to find a better solution to the visibility problems.

Posted by: Matt Anderson | February 4, 2011 9:03 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Anderson's comments are most welcome.

I suspect lawyers representing the estates of pilots killed by invisible MET towers will wish to depose him.

Given such advice, those who nonetheless erected hard to see MET towers just under the FAA limit appear to be guilty of gross negligence if not malice of forethought.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 5, 2011 4:18 AM    Report this comment

Matt, Your comments and attitude are appreciated. Hopefully NRG will come around to similar perspectives. After reading their suggestions in their comment to the FAA it left me slightly disturbed about the potential cooperation we would get. I will say in general (except for Mark!) the meetings I have had with your industry reps and the ones our Division of Aeronautics has had with the wind energy working group here in Boise have been positive overall where not wanting to kill people is concerned. I have had some friction from one or two individuals where they're perspective on the amount of potential users was concerned but they came away from it with a far better understanding of how things really work and saw the need for marking the towers. We've been lucky to only kill one at a time (which is still too many!), hopefully we can get this worked out before an EMS helicopter takes one out and gets three or four at once.

Posted by: George Parker | February 5, 2011 6:55 AM    Report this comment

https://www1.nga.mil/ProductsServices/Aeronautical/DigitalVerticalObstructionFile/Pages/default.aspx

Free Digital vertical Obstruction file. US data is available to the public. depends on reporting, not search. If Met tower operators provide to NGA, they will get into the database. Not sure how fast they can be ingested and confirmed.

Posted by: Cathy Babis | February 5, 2011 9:27 AM    Report this comment

Copy that Cathy! There is even at least one company that has advertised to do this type of thing privately within the ag aviation community. One thing I think we will find that will a small point of contention with SOME of the data gathering companies is that they don't all want everyone to know where the towers are! I base this on some of my direct interaction with a couple of the developers in Idaho. They view the siting locations as proprietary information and don't necessarily want other wind companies to know where they are searching for data. Others didn't seem to care at all and one company prevalent around the Idaho Falls area actually marks and reports locations to the FAA without even being required to but they are like one in fifteen. The Wyoming DOT has their own website that was put into place when their legislation passed in 2009. It is a searchable database as well. We will need something similar but on a national level if we get this thing moving. Great link though, thanks for bringing this to our attention!

Posted by: George Parker | February 5, 2011 12:54 PM    Report this comment

THIS JUST IN! Mark scratch all those kill statistics. Make it a total of 4 dead in four strikes and three crashes, and maybe it is an issue to GA! http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/GenPDF.asp?id=SEA04LA027&rpt=fa

Posted by: George Parker | February 5, 2011 2:06 PM    Report this comment

A link to some more pictures of met towers. https://www.faasafety.gov/files/notices/2010/May/Met_tower_Power_Point_St._Cloud.pdf

Posted by: George Parker | February 6, 2011 8:33 AM    Report this comment

"THIS JUST IN!"

Actually, that was back in 2003 and the pilot was flying a GLASAIR below 200' in an area KNOWN for wind turbines. Hello? Low altitude buzzing was the reason for the crash, not what he eventually hit. That precisely illustrates the point of needing one's head examined.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 8:14 AM    Report this comment

You are right Mark. So that means that they DESERVED to die? Even the passenger? So society SHOULDN'T apply proactive safety measures to protect the LEGITIMATE USERS let alone the irresponsible rule breakers, right? I believe there are people that believe "WE" (if you are really a pilot) deserve to die and need our heads examined just for even getting in an airplane at all! Are they right too? Do we deserve to die and need our heads examined if we drive cars on a mountain road with a cliff on one side of it? Or is that why society puts up guard rails as a proactive safety measure, we DON'T actually deserve to die for driving winding mountain roads? There are many levels of perception in life from varying individuals where "sanity of action" is concerned. I appreciate that you are fully willing to be so judgmental of others' sanity of action with nearly no perspective of what it is they are doing or why they are doing it! It must be fun at your house at Thanksgiving!:)

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 8:35 AM    Report this comment

OK guys let's stick with the facts under discussion please and refrain from personal attacks. I would remind you again to review AVweb's commenting rules. thanks.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 7, 2011 8:48 AM    Report this comment

"So that means that they DESERVED to die?"

All it means that a PIC has to accept the consequences of his actions. Anyone flying a high performance experimental Glasair on-the-deck in an area well known for wind energy towers is taking an incredible risk.

Some people even take trusting passengers on very dangerous flights. It's that kind of cavalier attitude of endangering passengers that DESERVES a level of question about their judgment.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Right, but does that mean the passenger (potentially unknowing about where there is and isn't prolific wind study areas) deserved to die or not? When potentially some paint, balls, and cable shields may have allowed the pilot to see the tower, pull up, say "wow, was I being stupid, I'm not going to do that again", and fly to their destination alive with a good lesson learned and everybody going home to their families.

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 9:38 AM    Report this comment

"wow, was I being stupid"

A good lesson? He was an ATP, Multi-engine commercial pilot with 16,000 hours. He obviously knew the risks of poles/wires when running at high speeds below the treeline and ridge-running down into a turbine farm.

The "good lesson" from the accident is the same old one: Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.

Don't do anything as PIC that would look stupid on an NTSB accident report!

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 10:06 AM    Report this comment

You are right Mark, hopefully the rest of us will be able to aspire to the level of perfection and flawless judgement you have achieved in what is no doubt an extremely illustrious aviation career. How do you know he was at high speeds?

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Here is alink direct to the Wyoming Fish and Game met tower data search page. More heads to examine! http://gf.state.wy.us/METTowers/frmViewPublic.aspx

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 11:26 AM    Report this comment

"How do you know he was at high speeds?"

I know because I read the accident report. Leaning from the mistakes of others means you don't require a personal near miss to learn what's risky. Hopefully the rest of us will aspire to a "higher level" of judgment by learning from others.

Look both ways before crossing a street or risk being roadkill. Don't fly low & fast down into a wind farm and expect to always be home safe for dinner. You don't need flawless judgment, just common sense.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

Uuuuh, but don't we have crosswalks, crossing guards, traffic cops, crosswalk signals, "ped xing" signs, YELLOW FLASHING LIGHTS AT SCHOOL CROSSINGS, and J-walking laws to help us cross the road SAFELY? Does that societal help mean that all road crossers don't have common sense? You're funny Mark.

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 12:19 PM    Report this comment

Common sense says you ALWAYS look before crossing. Trusting you life that some distracted driver will always see a painted crosswalk in all conditions is nonsense.

Common sense says you don't fly fast and low in a wind farm. Trusting that a distracted pilot will ALWAYS see every painted thin tower in all conditions is nonsense. If you want personal safety, be personally safe. Otherwise don't expect sympathy if you're trusting ALWAYS to "luck" or "regulations" and you loose. That is a lesson for school children need to be taught about streets and adults should already know.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 12:41 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for showing me the way Mark, you're right we shouldn't mark (no pun intended!) the towers after all. What was I thinkin'? You're the man with universal perspective and wisdom!

Posted by: George Parker | February 7, 2011 1:05 PM    Report this comment

George, you are waisting your time. It's impossible to explain this issue to non-aviators since they olny see one side.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | February 7, 2011 1:32 PM    Report this comment

"It's impossible to explain this issue to non-aviators since they only see one side."

PRECISELY. Those are the people who own the land in rural areas. They don't know (or even care) about flying. Some are actually hostile toward low-level flying. Some even plant tall trees in their field if an adjacent field has a private air strip.

Thanks Jim for pointing out that 300 million people don't know (or even care a rats rear) about the 650K aviators in the country or how/why things are important to them. That's not their deal.

That's WHY it's dangerous to fly below 199' and out of the protection of the agency that is concerned about air navigation.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 2:09 PM    Report this comment

Mark,

Although a good percentage of my flying is below 220', I think I'll shrug off your repeated evaluations of my mental acuity. I recognize my job is potentially dangerous but it has grown more so since MET towers were first erected in this area. Thus I look forward to the final rule and revision to AC70/7460-1 to include guidance for marking these towers in a uniform manner. I count 9 towers in the general area here. 1 of those 9 is marked with balls, flags and paint, the visibility difference between the marked tower and the unmarked towers is astounding.

Among the positive thing to come from this rule, is the fact that it will be far easier to successfully petition local zoning official to request they adopt a marking ordinance for MET towers when the marking ordinance is FAA designed and recommended.

Posted by: Bruce VanBeek | February 7, 2011 2:46 PM    Report this comment

"They don't know (or even care) about flying. Some are actually hostile toward low-level flying. Some even plant tall trees in their field if an adjacent field has a private air strip." When you say "some", you really mean "you". We understand you now. Thanks MF.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | February 7, 2011 4:39 PM    Report this comment

Bruce, why not work directly with met tower manufactures? They also are trying to make money down low and don't their towers hit either It seems reasonable that they would be reasonable. Get together the non-GA (paid pilots) to petition the paid tower builders who also operate in non-FAA areas for their mutual benefit. Done.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 4:51 PM    Report this comment

Jim, everyone's seen petitions to close airports, petitions against airplane noise, entire communities afraid of airports, and even a mayor plow over a runway during the night. When I say "some" I mean "some" even in high ranking places don't share a love of aviation.

It's pretty obvious that "local zoning" is not usually pro-aviation.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 5:08 PM    Report this comment

The reason so many want to close airports is because they are uneducated about the great benefit that a local airfield provides. It's not just the pilots that win, but so does the community. When Mayor Daley destroyed Meigs Field, he also destroyed countless busisnesses, and jobs that relied on that airport. The only reason he closed that airport was because of greed, and he got himself in a crack for that stunt too! The new Chicago mayor sees the big picture, and plans to re-open Meigs to bring business back to Chicago.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | February 7, 2011 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Which is the "why" I'm not too positive that ordinances would be effective. Too many locals move to the country for selfish reasons of peace & quiet and wind power. They a the real jerks that pressure real anti-aircraft ordinances. Good luck convincing them that planes are good and wind towers are bad.

In the interim, let's hope tower operators see the value of cooperation. Till then it's a wild west below 199'.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 7, 2011 9:49 PM    Report this comment

"Bruce, why not work directly with met tower manufactures? They also are trying to make money down low and don't their towers hit either It seems reasonable that they would be reasonable. Get together the non-GA (paid pilots) to petition the paid tower builders who also operate in non-FAA areas for their mutual benefit. Done"

That approach has been tried and met with miserable failure so far.

Posted by: Bruce VanBeek | February 7, 2011 11:43 PM    Report this comment

The FAA has no authority (and they won't go against the Presidential edicts for green energy). The masses are decidedly against airports and air traffic and too uneducated to change. Tower manufacturers are cash strapped and won't spend extra on lighting/paint that the buyers are not required to pay for. And it's rare for any local zoning to favor aviation.

I agree, it's an uphill battle.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 8, 2011 8:29 AM    Report this comment

A few multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuits and the prospect of more should get these wind power tycoons to own up to their responsibilities. There are some deep pockets ripe for the picking.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 8, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

After the way layers decimated GA manufacturers, I'm not too keen on having my electric bill also be used to build some lawyer his next mansion at everyone's expense.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 8, 2011 12:23 PM    Report this comment

So you agree the towers should be marked?

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 6:39 AM    Report this comment

That's up to anyone who makes an obstruction of 199' or less. Hopefully in the USA we operate by rule of law (and not fear of lawyers). Rule of law says they are unmarked. Change the law or "should be marked" is irrelevant.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 6:56 AM    Report this comment

That's what we're working on Mark.

The comment at the end of the story starting this blog was; "It seems to me the FAA should decide if these towers are a safety problem, or not. If they're not, then leave them alone. But if they need to be painted and illuminated so pilots can see them, that should be mandated, rather than suggested."

What I've been arguing with you about is that for 14 legal, legitimate low-altitude users plus the odd irresponsible private pilot (the "did they deserve to die" question) THEY ARE A PROBLEM. I know this because I've been focused on it for the last five years since I almost hit one.

Since your first ignorant comment of "head examination" I believe you're still making progress on the path of education!

Here's a deal for you. If I don't get killed hitting one of these trying to help feed you my wife won't make your electric bill go up by suing the beejesus out of a wind energy developer! So how's about we all come to the agreement that we should slather a little paint on, get a little solar powered marine light, eight 8' lengths of cable shield, and four little orange balls on these things? Sound good?

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 7:48 AM    Report this comment

The FAA has NO JURISDICTION to mandate such things. Coast Guard has NO JURISDICTION to mark a steam in Iowa for seasonal sandbars. The DOT has NO JURISDICTION on a tractor used in a field.

If you navigate a vehicle where navigation is "at your own risk" (and notice that the risks are greatly increasing) then I do question the wisdom of complaining and continuing.

Maybe this is the perfect time to explore better technologies for doing "the job" done by low altitude manned flight?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 8:27 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I don't see why the FAA "has no jurisdiction." Just because the current FAR refers only to obstacles above 200 feet, doesn't mean another FAR couldn't change that. There are plenty of examples where FAA rules apply in airspace right down to the surface, such as airports and restricted areas.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 8:52 AM    Report this comment

Guys, I will remind you one last time to review AVweb's commenting rules and refrain from personal attacks. Posts that involve name-calling and insults will be removed.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 9:02 AM    Report this comment

Air navigation in FAA airspace offers protections based on visibility, speed, terrain, required equipment (and equipment limitations).

Operating outside of those protections (like VFR navigation in the clouds) and you're at high risk. Operate at 201' and the FAA will back you up, operate below 199'(away from airports) and the FAA can't limit the risks. Simple as that, nothing personal.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Well my question is, why not? Where does it say the FAA has no jurisdiction below 200 feet AGL?

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 9:54 AM    Report this comment

14 CFR Part 77 sets the "scope" of FAA navigable airspace.

Here is a link: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_04/14cfr77_04.html

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 10:21 AM    Report this comment

That has been one of my thoughts Mary. Laws and rules are supposed to be able to changeable and adaptable to societal advancements over time. This current societal advancement has been the increasing presence of wind energy in the country bringing with it more and more met towers. The FAA HAS jurisdiction below 200 feet they just haven't decided to have obstacles below that mark marked outside of various radius or slope profiles from airports/heliports.

An interesting two liner that just showed up in the comments this morning; As a working flight instructor who routinely flies with one eye considering emergency landing sites, I strongly urge you to make the marking of meteorological evaluation towers mandatory. Voluntary compliance is pointless. Thank you

We're up to 272 comments now, rough count is all but 10 in favor of marking. I believe the mother-load is yet to come because I put mine in on Thursday and haven't seen it yet.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 10:26 AM    Report this comment

They're coughing them out now, up to 283.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

Mark can you be more specific? Is there a regulation there that says FAA has no jurisdiction below 200 feet...?

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Mary, 77.13 to be exact. No one has to notify the FAA of the existence of constructions below 200'. If they don't care if they exist then tell people what color they should be.

As said, either change the law or develop less hazardous ways to to the job (i.e new technology without pilots).

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 11:26 AM    Report this comment

edit: If they don't care if they exist then THEY CAN'T tell people what color they should be.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Mark. I know the current rules apply only to obstructions 200 feet and up, but I thought you were implying that the FAA is not capable of making rules that would affect lower structures. I don't know of anything that would prohibit the FAA from making such rules. If the FAA wants to make a new rule that would require builders to mark the structures, I don't think there is any reason they can't propose one.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 11:36 AM    Report this comment

True, barring LOCATION.

From AC 70/7460-1, got to the end.

20. STRUCTURES TO BE MARKED AND LIGHTED Any temporary or permanent structure, including all appurtenances, that exceeds an overall height of 200 feet (61m) above ground level (AGL) or exceeds any obstruction standard contained in 14 CFR part 77, should normally be marked and/or lighted. However, an FAA aeronautical study may reveal that the absence of marking and/or lighting will not impair aviation safety. Conversely, the object may present such an extraordinary hazard potential that higher standards may be recommended for increased conspicuity to ensure safety to air navigation. Normally outside commercial lighting is not considered sufficient reason to omit recommended marking and/or lighting. Recommendations on marking and/or lighting structures can vary depending on terrain features, weather patterns, geographic location, and in the case of wind turbines, number of structures and overall layout of design. The FAA may also recommend marking and/or lighting a structure that does not exceed 200 (61m) feet AGL or 14 CFR part 77 standards because of its particular location.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 11:55 AM    Report this comment

Straight from an FAA rep this morning;

"The FAA has JURISDICTION RIGHT TO THE SURFACE ANYWHERE", through policy implementation to provide that the best bang for the buck is being achieved they decide where to and where not to regulate AT A GIVEN TIME.

At the time the current rules were written there was no wind energy industry building and erecting large quantities of towers 1 meter short of the marking height, there weren't LARGE quantities of EMS helicopter operations 24 hours a day nationwide either.

Life changes, so sometimes should the rules to adapt to said change.

But just to be clear, THE FAA HAS JURISDICTION OVER AIRSPACE TO THE SURFACE, ANYWHERE. They just have to decide where the majority of traffic will be affected to most wisely spend tax dollars and state that in a revised ruling.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Straight from an FAA rep this morning;

"The FAA has JURISDICTION RIGHT TO THE SURFACE ANYWHERE", through policy implementation to provide that the best bang for the buck is being achieved they decide where to and where not to regulate AT A GIVEN TIME.

At the time the current rules were written there was no wind energy industry building and erecting large quantities of towers 1 meter short of the marking height, there weren't LARGE quantities of EMS helicopter operations 24 hours a day nationwide either.

Life changes, so sometimes should the rules to adapt to said change.

But just to be clear, THE FAA HAS JURISDICTION OVER AIRSPACE TO THE SURFACE, ANYWHERE. They just have to decide where the majority of traffic will be affected to most wisely spend tax dollars and state that in a revised ruling.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 12:09 PM    Report this comment

May I add that there is no stated specific location in that AC statement.

It could be in farm ground, on top of ridges, on top of mountains, or next to a taco truck.

It is our (the legal, legitimate, low-altitude users group) task to show them what "locations" are negatively affected by these structures.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 12:21 PM    Report this comment

Mary, True, I suppose the FAA can propose anything, but they've hesitated proposing a rule change in this case. I'm not too sure that they can actually assume command/control over all low level building/activity in the country without Congressional approval.

George, As far as your FAA rep, that sure sounds like a real typical FAA rep. The FAA DOES NOT control surface activities nor do they control space activities. Kids can still use their trampolines without having to give adequate notice to the administrator...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 12:44 PM    Report this comment

I guess if the trampoline is less than 10.5 feet tall you're right!

Structure Height to Bandwidth Ratio Example: If a Structure is: Greater Than But Not More Than Band Width 10.5 feet (3.2m) 700 feet (214m) 1 /7 of height 701 feet (214m) 900 feet (275m) 1 /9 of height 901 feet (275m) 1,100 feet (336m) 1 /11 of height 1,100 feet (336m) 1,300 feet (397m) 1 /13 of height

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

They have lighting instructions down to 40 feet???

We're asking for MET TOWERS down to 50 feet.

a. Top Mounted Obstruction Light. 1. Structures 150 Feet (46m) AGL or Less. Two or more steady burning (L-810) lights should be installed in a manner to ensure an unobstructed view of one or more lights by a pilot. 2. Structures Exceeding 150 Feet (46m) AGL. At least one red flashing (L-864) beacon should be installed in a manner to ensure an unobstructed view of one or more lights by a pilot. 3. Appurtenances 40 Feet (12m) or Less. If a rod, antenna, or other appurtenance 40 feet (12m) or less in height is incapable of supporting a red flashing beacon, then it may be placed at the base of the appurtenance. If the mounting location does not allow unobstructed viewing of the beacon by a pilot, then additional beacons should be added. 4. Appurtenances Exceeding 40 Feet (12m). If a rod, antenna, or other appurtenance exceeding 40 feet (12m) in height is incapable of supporting a red flashing beacon, a supporting mast with one or more beacons should be installed adjacent to the appurtenance. Adjacent installations should not exceed the height of the appurtenance and be within 40 feet (12m) of the tip to allow the pilot an unobstructed view of at least one beacon.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 12:53 PM    Report this comment

George, Thanks. The way I read that same advisory is that it also requires pilots to be at least 500 feet from man-made structures. If you're 500' above barns, fences, poles, and mailboxes then I would assume that a 40' tower is not considered a safety of flight issue.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, I keep thinking General Aviation (not fly-for-hire down-in-the-streets flying). Air ambulance guys would worry about things less than the height of a telephone pole in a city.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Right, part 137 allows us to be waaay closer than 500' when in the process of the dispensing operation.

Even mosquito abatement operators with twins or helicopters are legal below 500' (at night in most cases!) with a congested area operations plan.

Helicopters of course don't apply.

Thus our problem of unmarked, single pole, guy wired structures being erected in various locations with no location reporting being only 1 meter below the current marking rules.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 3:01 PM    Report this comment

But back to the point that you've been stating since way up near the top of these posts.

Post 10 to be specific; "Their property, their right to put up a tower. You're a guest so all you can do is ask for a favor."

Not so. IF we can convince the FAA that these various "locations" (define "locations"; a state, type of terrain, latitude/longitude, area of overlying airspace such as a MOA, etc.) with unmarked towers erected are an extreme hazard to multiple types of aviation operations. GA or not in your mind.

Because now we know that the FAA has jurisdiction and cares about airspace below 200', they just need to know where to care about it.

I believe that AOPA did an article on aerial application a couple of years ago and classified it as a form of GA by the way. When my local airport's count yearly landing/takeoff cycles for federal funding they include my operations in the GA category too. We must be some kinda GA????

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 3:17 PM    Report this comment

General aviation is generally defined as all flight ops other than the military or scheduled airlines.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 9, 2011 3:43 PM    Report this comment

344 comments at the end of the day today. I'm going to say the LARGE majority, so far, in favor of mandatory marking.

Posted by: George Parker | February 9, 2011 6:20 PM    Report this comment

"Because now we know that the FAA has jurisdiction"

Where are you finding that? The FAA can restrict AIRCRAFT (down to surface) but they DON'T have ultimate authority over any man made object or activity (on the surface). That would put them in complete control of the entire country (and they aren't).

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 9, 2011 9:37 PM    Report this comment

All the FAA need do is designate crop dusting areas, MTRs and EMS routes as airports. Same trick as pop-up VIP TFRs.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 10, 2011 12:02 AM    Report this comment

Mark, No matter what you want to believe in your reality this is the way I understand it in mine. The FAA has jurisdiction over the whole US airspace system down to the surface of the earth. They have painting criteria for objects down to 10.5 feet and lighting criteria down to 40 feet, right now. They just have to decide what objects being marked where will benefit GA (apparently that's us too) the most for their effort. I am finding that in my conversation with the NW region airspace rep and the AC I've quoted out of. For some reason you feel that there is some magic stopping point nationwide other than within 3 miles of an airport below 200'. It only exists now because they say it does. If we can convince them otherwise it won't exist. It could be set at 300', 150', 50', or 12' or for a specific object in this altitude block. Or a combination of the two as seems most likely.

Posted by: George Parker | February 10, 2011 12:34 AM    Report this comment

"The FAA has jurisdiction over the whole US airspace system down to the surface of the earth." Summary: The FAA does not consider met towers a major threat of concern to the National airspace system that they oversee. The risk factors are lower than for bird strikes. End of discussion.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 10, 2011 7:34 AM    Report this comment

Back to the beginning again.

We just had a comment period to see what the peanut gallery (ALL of us, wind industry included) thinks about whether or not it is or is not a problem.

Being that five states either have existing or are working on legislation, there have been four deaths, and numerous airspace users have expressed concern to them they at least want to take a look at how that aspect of obstruction conflict has changed in recent years and see if rule changes are needed.

So I believe the discussion has actually just begun amongst the players that are really affected and who's perspective really matters.

But I'll take that "end of discussion" to mean you won't be posting on this one anymore and we'll see what the next six months to a year brings us on this.

Had fun volleying with you though, if you ever feel as though you would really like to know how this all works, for real, not perceptually, come on to Idaho. I'd be happy to ride you around in my 180 and show you some different scenario types and take you to Boise to talk to some of our round-table participants (more people in need of head examination) to allow them to share their own perspectives in their own words with you. Open invitation, all I'll need is three days notice.

No matter what, we really appreciate your open-mindedness and ability as a fellow pilot to support other aviation groups in something they see as important. The power of numbers helps us, thanks.

Posted by: George Parker | February 10, 2011 8:48 AM    Report this comment

End of discussion means that your "all powerful FAA" disagrees that it's a major flight hazard. Open-mindedness and reason don't work on Federal bureaucracies (FAA and DHS in particular)

I wish they will take a reasoned approach and do some testing to evaluate the actual risk factor. If it's a high risk then they can test the best method of color or lighting or reporting system and make it standardized.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 10, 2011 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Mark, since the FAA just released a proposed policy that addresses the safety issues with Met towers, which is what this discussion is all about, I don't think it would be accurate to say the FAA doesn't think they are a flight hazard. They already have looked at the data, they have proposed a voluntary marking protocol and they are currently collecting comments. That seems to me to be a fairly reasoned approach. Most of the commenters so far are saying the protocol should made mandatory. We'll have to wait and see how the FAA responds.

Posted by: Mary Grady | February 10, 2011 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Over 350 comments processed now!

Mark, you should read some of them! :)

www.regulations.gov search docket # 2010-1326

Posted by: George Parker | February 10, 2011 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I don't think it would be accurate to say that the FAA thinks that met towers are an immediate hazard. If they did then they would have done more than "voluntary".

If they do prove to be a unique hazard below 199', then the FAA will obviously act. There is no evidence in NTSB reports to suggest they are an abnormal hazard to very low-level flight; just that simply more of them actually exists.

I don't see it as a "mixed message" from the FAA perspective. It's a very rare event for an even rarer segment of all of aviation. So far, the lion share of low-lever accidents are more cause by pilot error, equipment problems, and weather.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 10, 2011 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Yeah......

A tower strike is pilot error.

It's just easier to make an error when you can't see what you are about to hit.

Posted by: George Parker | February 10, 2011 11:55 AM    Report this comment

All the FAA need do is designate crop dusting areas, MTRs and EMS routes as airports. Same trick as pop-up VIP TFRs.

Posted by: Chuck Forsberg | February 10, 2011 5:08 PM    Report this comment

They processed a few more, we're up to 440 comments!

Posted by: George Parker | February 16, 2011 4:12 PM    Report this comment

When the words "MET towers" is used, or complained about air hazards & photographed they are always the "MET pipe" structures, Not lattice type "MET towers". Yes, the people that manufacture the MET polestructures are calling them "towers", but they are mono-legged "pipe structures" not lattice "towers". Some of the many unpainted & unlit towers that I own have MET instruments on them & are easy to see (while flying)since my lattice MET towers are 2' to 20' wide guyed or self-supporting type lattice towers. The majority of my lattice tower heights are at or less than 199' tall AGL. Some have guy wire marker balls. To suggest that all "MET towers" (shorter or around 199 AGL)get identified (marked) with 7 bands of alternating orange & white paint & or tower lights unless you mean to identify the "MET pipe structures" which I agree are more difficult to see. Plus MET pipe structures is what I see & are described in the pilot complaint photographs. I have & operate my fourth aircraft (N378G)and am knowledgable about flying, its hazards plus an expert about communication & MET towers.

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