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Tower Lighting: A Matter of Life and Death

Last week an Army Black Hawk helicopter flew into a guy wire on the 1,739 foot KXXV tower north of Waco near Moody, Texas, killing all on board. The lights on the TV tower had been out since a strong storm passed through the area. KXXV followed the rules for tower light outages and had notified the FAA, which issued a NOTAM warning pilots of the unlit tower. The helicopter was operating under visual flight rules (VFR) when it left Fort Hood around dawn, but encountered heavy fog shortly after departing. The pilot asked for a flight plan under instrument flight rules (IFR) shortly before the crash.

This unfortunate event shows how important it is to promptly report tower light outages to the FAA. I'm sure everyone at KXXV is saddened by the crash, but imagine the added pain everyone responsible would have felt if the FAA had not been notified and the proper procedures followed. If you are responsible for a tower (TV, radio or wireless) that's lighted, take this opportunity to emphasize to your staff the critical importance of monitoring tower lighting.

The FCC is well aware of the dangers of unlighted towers. Last week the FCC fined Crown Castle GT Company LLC $10,000 for violating commission rules requiring daytime obstruction lighting of its tower new Blountville, TN. Also last week, Exosphere Broadcasting company was fined $10,000 by the FCC for failing to exhibit obstruction lighting on its tower in Saint Augustine, Florida from sunset to sunrise.

Additional details on the helicopter crash can be found in the Press article Helicopter crew reportedly wanted to use instruments before hitting tower wires in fog.