Washington state legislature mulls tower marking bill

January 22, 2014

A bill in the Washington state legislature would require the marking and lighting of meteorological evaluation towers (METs) and other guyed structures more than 25 feet tall located in rural areas of the state.

The FAA doesn’t generally require the marking and lighting of towers and other obstructions less than 200 feet agl, but many METs less than 200 feet tall are located in rural areas throughout the state. METs are erected to evaluate wind conditions at a particular site for potential wind power generating facilities.

But these small, unmarked towers present a significant hazard to important and lawful low-level general aviation aircraft operations, including aerial application, emergency response, wildfire suppression, and medical helicopter operations. They are often erected suddenly, with no notice, and if not marked, are very difficult to see from an aircraft, as shown in this video about MET towers created by the Nebraska Aviation Trades Association and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

House Bill 2241 would require the prominent marking and lighting of guyed towers, including MET’s, taller than 25 feet agl (but less than 200 feet agl) located in unincorporated, rural areas of the state. In a Jan. 17 letter to Rep. Judy Clibborn, chair of the state House Transportation Committee, AOPA expressed the general aviation community's strong support for the bill.

“As the National Transportation Safety Board noted in its May 2013 Safety Recommendation, 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,” wrote AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager David Ulane. “Requiring the marking and lighting of these small towers at the state level, as recommended by the NTSB, would significantly improve the safety of important rural aircraft operations in Washington at minimal additional cost to tower owners.”

Ulane has worked with the Washington Pilots Association; Heather Hansen, the advocate for the state’s aerial applicators; and other aviation stakeholders to help develop the bill. 

The bill had a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee Jan. 20. It is working its way through the legislature, which adjourns March 12.  AOPA will continue to monitor and support this bill, as well as its Senate companion bill when introduced. AOPA members in the state are being encouraged to reach out to their state legislators and encourage them to support the bill.