April 30, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
A new law in Montana requires the prominent marking of meteorological evaluation towers (MET) taller than 50 feet agl (but less than 200 feet agl) located in unincorporated, rural areas of the state. It also requires the reporting of the tower’s location and height to regulatory officials so the information can be made available to pilots. With strong support in both the Montana House and Senate, HB546 was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock on April 22 and is effective immediately.
More than 100 unmarked METs less than 200 feet tall are located in rural areas across the state. The towers are erected to evaluate wind conditions at a particular site for potential wind power generating facilities.
At present it is estimated that more than 100 METs, which fall outside of the FAA’s requirements for obstruction marking and lighting, are currently erected throughout the state, according to David Ulane, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager. “These small, unmarked and difficult to see towers can pose a significant hazard to critical and lawful low-level aviation activities, including aerial application, emergency medical helicopter operations, and aerial firefighting,” he said.
“They are often erected suddenly, with no notice, and if not marked, are very difficult to see from an aircraft,” said Ulane, who cited a video about METs created by the Nebraska Aviation Trades Association and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Originally introduced in February, AOPA, the Association of Montana Aerial Applicators, the Montana Pilots Association, and others in the state worked to get the bill passed. During a visit to Helena in February, Ulane met personally with bill sponsor state Rep. Roy Hollandsworth and key legislators to offer AOPA’s support of this key safety bill.
“Requiring the marking, lighting, and reporting of these small towers will significantly improve the safety of rural aircraft operations in Montana at a minimal additional cost to tower owners,” said Ulane. Existing METs will have until April 21, 2014, to come into compliance.
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