AOPA opposes rebuilding radio tower near California airport's traffic pattern

August 25, 2005

AOPA opposes rebuilding radio tower near California airport's traffic pattern

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AOPA has expressed its strong opposition to the reconstruction of a 760-foot-tall broadcast tower at Fullerton Municipal Airport (FUL) because it would be a hazard to air navigation. In formal comments to the FAA, AOPA cited two fatal accidents in which aircraft hit the tower as evidence that rebuilding in the same location would pose a danger. The tower would be located close to the climb/descent area of the traffic pattern.

"The proposed KFI broadcast tower has adversely affected air navigation by both being a physical obstruction to air navigation and by distracting pilots' attention during critical arrival and departure phases of flight at FUL," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "AOPA strongly recommends the FAA issue a Determination of Presumed Hazard."

In December 2004, two people died when a Cessna 182 hit and destroyed the tower. Another fatal accident in 1970 did not destroy the tower.

The NTSB has not released its finding of probable cause in the 2004 accident, and AOPA has expressed concern that the FAA circularized the public notice seeking comments before that is available.

"AOPA feels the public should have had the opportunity to review the NTSB's probable cause narrative before submitting relative comments to the FAA based on aeronautical fact," Williams said.

The tower would be within 220 feet of the climb/descent area of the traffic pattern airspace for Runway 24/06 when less than four aircraft are flying in the pattern. However, it would violate the climb/descent area when four or more aircraft are in the pattern because the traffic pattern would be lengthened by one-half of a nautical mile for each additional aircraft above four.

"The FAA limits obstacles in the climb/descent area of a traffic pattern to 350 feet above ground level - the 760-foot-tall tower clearly violates that when the pattern is extended," Williams said.

AOPA also pointed out that pilots are more likely to use the north side of the airport, where the tower would be reconstructed, because the Disneyland theme park temporary flight restriction extends to within 2 nm of the southern end.

August 25, 2005