The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has adopted emergency rules to require the marking of meteorological evaluation towers, and has forwarded the proposed regulations to Gov. Mary Fallin for final approval.
AOPA has strongly backed the commission’s efforts, and the enabling legislation passed this spring, to require marking the towers to head off collisions with aircraft, especially those aircraft flying at low altitudes in support of agriculture or air medical transport. The towers, which are set up to evaluate sites for wind-energy potential, do not come under FAA regulations because the structures usually rise less than 200 feet above ground level.
AOPA will submit a letter to the governor supporting the regulations as an important contribution to the safety of flight in Oklahoma as the wind-energy industry expands, said Yasmina Platt, AOPA’s Central/Southwest regional manager.
Acting to head off accidents like several fatal collisions that have raised concerns at the National Transportation Safety Board, including one tower collision in Oklahoma, the aeronautics commission adopted the staff draft of emergency rules at its Nov. 13 meeting. Final approval by the governor is expected within 45 days.
The work by the commission and its staff to compose a set of rules was set in motion by legislation signed by Fallin this spring, requiring the marking, painting, and flagging of towers that are at least 50 feet high. Another provision requires the state to maintain a database of tower locations.
Fallin had vetoed a previous bill out of concern about criminal penalties it contained for violations, but signaled to lawmakers that a civil-penalty approach would keep the effort on track. The final rules approved by the aeronautics commission contain administrative penalties in the form of fines.
"We appreciate the governor’s interest in addressing this important issue, as well as the good work done by the aeronautics commission; Aeronautics Director Victor Bird; and the legislators who sponsored Senate Bill 1995 and House Bill 3348," said Platt, crediting Sens. Charles Wyrick (D-District 1) and Ron Justice (R-District 23), and Reps. Doug Cox (R-District 5) and Don Armes (R-District 63) with spearheading the legislative effort.
“AOPA has been actively encouraging the adoption of these rules across the country, and we have worked hard in Oklahoma to help find a way to get it done,” she said.