One observant citizen in northeast Ohio spotted a light not working atop a 150-foot high cell tower and notified the landlord—Stow-Munroe Falls City School. AT&T had already been notified about the light failure, and the episode prompted a local newspaper, the Stow Sentry, to explore cell tower light outages and how they’re repaired.
“The cell tower behind the high school has a broken aviation/navigation light at the top. When that happens an alarm goes off and AT&T is notified,” Mark Fritz, the director of operations for the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District, told the Stow Sentry. “The FAA was then notified and they have rerouted air traffic for the next two weeks until AT&T can get a technician out to repair it.”
As tower companies well know, the FAA is involved in the tower development stage very early, as the agency gets a say on whether or not the cell tower will interfere with aviation safety, even before the FCC issues permits. The FCC has and will issue fines from the $10,000-to-$25,000 range if a tower light is out and repairs are not made immediately. Even when tower lights are functioning properly, pilots are aware of cell tower locations and avoid the structures in their flight plans.
“As a rule of thumb, we avoid the towers anyways,” David Poluga, the Kent State University Airport manager, told the Stow Sentry.
An anonymous complaint led agents from the Philadelphia field office of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau to WGBN’s door in 2014. Several tower violations have now tripped up Pentecostal Temple Development Corporation, owner of the AM in Lincoln Borough, Pennsylvania. The FCC cited Pentecostal for failing to light and paint its tower and for not informing the FAA of the lighting outages.
“Such structures present a significant public safety risk, especially to passing aircraft,” stated the Commission in its decision. “Pentecostal has previously been warned that it must repair the required lights and repaint the antenna structures to bring them into compliance with the Commission’s rules.”
Pentecostal owns four towers at the Lincoln Borough site; when agents returned to the site in 2016, they found faded and chipped paint on two structures. Also, the top level beacon on the tower registered under ASR 1026648 was out, and one of the two side steady burning obstruction lighting globes was out on the tower registered under ASR 1026650. Under agency rules, “any observed or otherwise known extinguishment or improper functioning of any top steady burning light or any flashing obstruction light, regardless of its position on the antenna structure, not corrected within 30 minutes” must be reported to the FAA.
After the owner neglected to bring the tower into compliance after repeated warnings, the agency determined WGBN’s owner is apparently liable for a $25,000 fine. Pentecostal has 30 days to appeal or pay.
Call it a love of nature. Call it new FCC guidelines, either way large tower owners are adapting their lighting infrastructure and, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), it is having a positive impact on our feathered friends. New guidelines for communication tower lights spell out how tower operators can save birds and energy without sacrificing safety, according to the ABC, which bills itself as “the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist.” The FCC and FAA say the guidelines strongly encourage tower operators to turn off or reprogram steady-burning red or white lights in favor of flashing lights, which are less harmful to birds yet still alert pilots to the towers’ presence.
The FAA and FCC have officially recognized that: birds are attracted to non-flashing red lights, such as L-810 side-marker lights; and birds are much less attracted to flashing lights on towers, such as L-864 and L-865 lights.
The FCC guidelines state: “As of December 4, 2015, FAA no longer permits red non-flashing lights on new towers over 350 feet. It also asked owners of existing towers to submit plans for changing their tower lights. The FCC and FAA have developed a process by which registrants may extinguish non-flashing lights on existing towers over 350 feet AGL. After September 15, 2016, towers between 150 and 350 feet AGL will also be expected to have only flashing lights.”
Steady burning lights on communications towers disorient migratory birds at night, Christine Sheppard, ABC’s Bird Collisions Campaign Manager said. As of late October, operators of more than 750 tall towers nationwide already updated their lighting systems under the new guidelines. Making the switch, the Conservancy said, saves energy, reduces operating costs, and reduces bird collisions substantially.
As many as seven million birds a year die in collisions with towers and the guy wires that support them according to The Conservancy studies. “By extinguishing the non-flashing lights on towers, we can reduce night-time bird fatality rates by as much as 70 percent,” Sheppard said.
“We wish to thank the operators of the 700-plus towers that have already switched their lighting to help reduce mortality of birds,” Sheppard said. “But there are still some 15,000 tall towers across the U.S. with outdated lights that are dangerous for birds. We are asking all tower operators to make this cost-saving and life-saving switch to help migratory birds.”
The FCC and FAA are expected to release specifications for flashing lights on towers 150 to 350 ft. AGL soon.
The FAA is calling on owners to eliminate the use of non-flashing lights on all towers. “New tower lighting schemes should now follow the revised guidance, and operators of towers with the old lighting system should submit plans explaining how and when they will transition to the new standards,” the agency said in a news release.
Read FAA Federal Lighting Regulations here.
In a cautionary tale for other tower owners, the FCC has cited the current owner of the Bendix Tower in Los Angeles for not registering the structure with the Commission and for improper painting and lighting. In a notice, the agency warns the owner to immediately fix the situation or else face a “significant” fine.
Casler Construction built the Bendix Building and erected the original tower in 1928, for the Bendix Aviation Corporation on Maple Avenue.
In 2013, an agent from the FCC’s Los Angeles office of its Enforcement Bureau saw a radio antenna mounted atop the tower, which is on the building roof. The total tower height exceeds 270 feet above the ground, so it should be registered with both the FCC and the FAA.
The FCC asked the FAA to issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for the structure, which was also not painted or lighted. NOTAMs alert pilots to potential hazards.
Though the tower was not being used for radio transmissions then, it had been at one time, for microwave transmissions. The FCC said in its notice that license has since been cancelled.
But a tower owner must maintain the proper lighting and marking until the structure is dismantled; that’s why the Commission is going after the owner.
In December 2013, the Enforcement Bureau issued a citation to prior owner Big Munga Development, ordering the firm to confirm it had taken steps to register the structure and rectify the other violations. Big Munga responded it was applying for FAA registration; the Commission received the FAA’s finding that the tower was not a hazard in January 2014; however the FAA agreed with the FCC the 237-foot structure needed required marking and lighting.
Big Munga installed a steady-burning red obstruction light; however the FCC told the company it needed to install a flashing red beacon to comply with FAA rules.
During inspections in 2015, and earlier this year, the Enforcement Bureau noted the tower had a flashing red beacon which did not come on until 13 minutes after sunset, and the structure was still not registered with the Commission.
This June, the FCC learned Big Munga sold the structure in 2015, but not from either Big Munga, nor the new owner.
Now, the FCC has cited what it’s calling “Tower Owner,” giving the entity 30 days to confirm the new owner has modified the lighting to a flashing red beacon and to confirm the hours the structure is lighted.
The new owner also must give the FCC the paperwork related to the tower sale, including the deed. If there is no paperwork, the new owner must provide the agency with a written statement describing the circumstances of how it acquired Bendix Tower.
The new entity also must tell the Commission whether Big Munga informed the new owner about the 2013 citation, and steps the former owner and new owner have taken to correct the violations and prevent more from occurring.
The new owner has 30 days to respond and if more violations occur, the FCC can levy a fine of up to $18,936 a day for each infraction and up to just over $142,000 for any single act or failure to act. Big Munga isn’t off the hook, either. The Commission reserves the right to assess penalties for conduct that led to the citation and for what followed.
Read FAA Federal Lighting Regulations here.
They dot the nighttime sky like a modern day light show, except these aren’t shining atop some of your tallest structures to wow us, but rather to keep us all safe. Many of them, however, are made in Central New York.
Follow the link in the source below for the video and full story via News Channel 9 Local SYR
White and red steady-burning lights, flashing lights and strobe lights, along with various combinations of the three types of lights, tower lighting configurations conceived by the FAA for towers and tall structures to warn pilots they are approaching an obstruction, particularly during nighttime hours and in bad weather, may save thousands of birds each year, the FAA believes. The regulations were crafted in conjunction with the FCC.
Wildlife biology research determined in the past decade that migratory birds appear to be particularly attracted to or are not threatened by non-flashing red tower lights, eturbonews.com reported. The research concluded the birds are drawn toward that type of light and become confused and exhausted or collide with the towers and their supporting guy wires, killing thousands of birds every year. Several years ago, wildlife organizations, the telecom industry, and FCC collectively asked the FAA to consider changing its lighting standards to reduce migratory bird fatalities by developing configurations that feature flashing lights instead of steady-burning lights, or completely omit the steady-burning lights in some cases, noted the news site.
In the wake of the changes, the FAA conducted flight tests in northern Michigan to compare the traditional steady-burning lighting with a variety of different types of flashing lights. The agencies found the new configurations featuring flashing lights provided acceptable warnings for pilots and were likely to result in a significant decrease in bird fatalities. Base on that, the agency last December updated its Advisory Circular (AC) for obstruction marking and lighting. New tower lighting schemes should now follow the revised guidance, and operators of towers with the old lighting system should submit plans explaining how and when they will transition to the new standards.
This great video courtesy of GME Supply shows what it means to be one of America’s Tower Climbers.
Syracuse, NY: (FEBRUARY 2016) – Unimar Inc., a designer and manufacturer of aircraft obstruction lighting and related controls announced that Tilson has completed training to become a Certified Installer of Unimar’s Obstruction Lighting Products.
The training was held in Unimar’s training center at its Global Headquarters in Syracuse, NY. The training consisted of classroom and hands-on instruction. To be certified, the students had to successfully demonstrate their ability to install, troubleshoot and repair the systems. They showed great initiative and confirmed their knowledge of the systems and industry, resulting in a smooth and productive session.
About Unimar Inc.: Unimar Inc. is a central New York based global supplier of standard, custom and explosion proof (UL and ATEX) obstruction lighting (Aircraft Warning), general industrial lighting and control systems for most every industry. Founded in 1989, Unimar provides solutions for varied industries including utilities, oil and gas, power plants, telecom, broadcast, infrastructure and other applications, whether for hazardous or standard commercial environments. For more information on Unimar, contact our sales department by phone at (800) 739-9169, email email@example.com or visit www.unimar.com.
About Tilson: Tilson is a national network real—estate development, network construction, and network maintenance company serving the cellular, utility, and government sectors. For more information about Tilson, contact Tilson at (207) 591-6427 or visit www.tilsontech.com.
Syracuse, NY: (DECEMBER 2015) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently released the new Advisory Circular, AC 70/7460-1L, for Obstruction Lighting and Marking. Important changes to the specification include: new lighting and marking standards to reduce negative impacts on migratory birds, medium intensity lighting can now be utilized on structures up to 700’, and defined standards for voluntary marking of meteorological towers. Unimar is proud to announce that our lighting systems are ready and compliant with these new additions. We are diligently working with the FAA and if you have any questions regarding the Advisory Circular updates, do not hesitate to contact us.
See the Federal Lighting Regulations here.
Syracuse, NY: (DECEMBER 2015) – The Federal Aviation Administration has released its new Advisory Circular, AC 70/7460-1L, for Obstruction Lighting and Marking. Important changes to the specification include: new lighting and marking standards, additional chapters, new light authorizations, and performance standards.
Added to reduce negative impacts on migratory bird populations, structures exceeding 151’ in height but less than 350’ in height will require L-810 side markers to flash in synchronization with the top beacon at a flash rate of 30 flashes per minute. Any structure 351’ and higher will no longer require L-810 side markers at intermediate levels.
A second update noted in the Advisory Circular is the authorization of medium-intensity white and medium-intensity dual obstruction lighting systems to be used on towers up to and including 700’ above ground level. Recommendation standards for voluntary marking of meteorological evaluation towers (METs), less than 200’ above ground level, have been added to provide reference towards increasing conspicuity of these structures. Another update located in Chapter 10, Marking and Lighting of Catenary and Catenary Support Structures, defines detailed and specific standards for self-illuminated catenary lights and markers. These standards include new regulations for categories such as spacing, color, size, and light output. Finally, an additional chapter, Chapter 14: Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems, has been added to provide performance standards for these types of systems.
Unimar lighting systems are ready and compliant with these new additions. Do not hesitate to contact Unimar if you have any questions regarding the updates to the FAA Advisory Circular. We would be pleased to assist you with your next obstruction lighting project.
See the Federal Lighting Regulations here.