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Thread: FAA Tower Marking

  1. #1
    Farmboy's Avatar
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    FAA Tower Marking

    Somewhat misleading article from GA News -

    Says towers under 200' now must be marked, but then goes on to say only weather towers under 200' are required to be marked. Comm towers under 200' have the "option" to be marked and listed, which of course means none will be. It's a start I guess.


    https://generalaviationnews.com/2019...Rur382zvn4R8OI
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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    What about the windmills which are more that 200 feet high? They only mark the top of the fixed tower. There are no markings on the blades which are the real hazard. There ought to be at least a red light on the tip of the blades when they pass though the top of their arc.
    N1PA
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    Farmboy's Avatar
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    Pete, than would be quite a sight to see at night! Wonder if the ground based population would complain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farmboy View Post
    Somewhat misleading article from GA News -

    Says towers under 200' now must be marked, but then goes on to say only weather towers under 200' are required to be marked. Comm towers under 200' have the "option" to be marked and listed, which of course means none will be. It's a start I guess.


    https://generalaviationnews.com/2019...Rur382zvn4R8OI
    I agree with their thinking. Ten years ago there was a big push around here for windmills. I was out flying one evening just before sunset crow hopping thru my favorite corn and hayfields. It's a run that i do a couple days a week. I pop over a hedgerow on a slight hill and thru the bug smeared windshield is a thin vertical line so I quickly turned left and a skinny tower goes by my right wing. I went home and drove over to the field that was 3 or 4 mile from my house. The tower look like it was made from 4" exhaust pipe in 20' length with a bell and hub on its ends. Counting the sections it seemed to be 180' high? Low enough that it didn't need a light. 1/8" cable came down at an angle in a couple places to steel plate with some rebar stakes driven into the ground. Tower had an anomometer on top and a wire running down to a box at the bottom that had an antenna like an old cell phone? This was on a Thursday evening and I had flown this same route on Monday. Went down to the neighbor farmer and he said they had put it up on Tuesday in about 4 hrs. Wind sampling towers can pop up in an afternoon anywhere. I hope they make them stripe the heck outa them. It was gone a year later.

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"

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    [QUOTE=Farmboy;752041]Pete, than would be quite a sight to see at night! Wonder if the ground based population would complain.

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    and some pilots would be tempted to fly through that circle----LOL---Capt Cub


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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    What about the windmills which are more that 200 feet high? They only mark the top of the fixed tower. There are no markings on the blades which are the real hazard. There ought to be at least a red light on the tip of the blades when they pass though the top of their arc.
    You should design & patent that idea!
    A blade tip strobe that only flashes when the blade is vertical when rotating, or if higher than turbine housing enclosure when stopped.


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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Hawk View Post
    You should design & patent that idea!
    A blade tip strobe that only flashes when the blade is vertical when rotating, or if higher than turbine housing enclosure when stopped.
    It just seems too simple to bother with a patent. With all of the solid state motion devices out there it should be simple for one to turn on a fixed or flashing light at the proper angle of rotation.
    N1PA
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    It just seems too simple to bother with a patent. With all of the solid state motion devices out there it should be simple for one to turn on a fixed or flashing light at the proper angle of rotation.
    Because a hundred towers all blinking in unison don’t already generate enough attention.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OLDCROWE View Post
    Because a hundred towers all blinking in unison don’t already generate enough attention.
    Currently those blinking lights are on the top of the fixed towers. My concern is when the blades are at the top of their arc which could be another 150 feet or so higher. Under certain light conditions a pilot could believe that he is above the towers when in fact he is in the middle of those rotating blades. The current FAA marking requirements do not address those rotating blades which are much higher than the towers.
    N1PA

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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    I agree with their thinking. Ten years ago there was a big push around here for windmills. I was out flying one evening just before sunset crow hopping thru my favorite corn and hayfields. It's a run that i do a couple days a week. I pop over a hedgerow on a slight hill and thru the bug smeared windshield is a thin vertical line so I quickly turned left and a skinny tower goes by my right wing. I went home and drove over to the field that was 3 or 4 mile from my house. The tower look like it was made from 4" exhaust pipe in 20' length with a bell and hub on its ends. Counting the sections it seemed to be 180' high? Low enough that it didn't need a light. 1/8" cable came down at an angle in a couple places to steel plate with some rebar stakes driven into the ground. Tower had an anomometer on top and a wire running down to a box at the bottom that had an antenna like an old cell phone? This was on a Thursday evening and I had flown this same route on Monday. Went down to the neighbor farmer and he said they had put it up on Tuesday in about 4 hrs. Wind sampling towers can pop up in an afternoon anywhere. I hope they make them stripe the heck outa them. It was gone a year later.

    Glenn
    SJ and I were coming out of our favorite local ranch strip in a valley and we came across one on the ridge above. He knew exactly what it was. Unfortunatley they became common place around here.
    Steve Pierce

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    Chicken Hawk's Avatar
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    FAA Tower Marking

    Quote Originally Posted by OLDCROWE View Post
    Because a hundred towers all blinking in unison don’t already generate enough attention.
    There are more single wind tower locations in the North East then there are wind farms. Wind farms are very visible, it’s the single wind turbines that can fool you. Seems like every college / university has one nowadays. Many private businesses trying to create “green image” are installing single windmills as well.
    It’s the single biggest change every time a New York sectional chart is reissued.
    Latest generation of LM blades are 288’ Long. That’s a good ways above the beacon.

    https://www.lmwindpower.com/en/produ...e-in-the-world



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    Last edited by Chicken Hawk; 08-07-2019 at 11:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Hawk View Post
    There are more single wind tower locations in the North East then there are wind farms. Wind farms are very visible, it’s the single wind turbines that can fool you. Seems like every college / university has one nowadays. Many private businesses trying to create “green image” are installing single windmills as well.
    It’s the single biggest change every time a New York sectional chart is reissued.
    Latest generation of LM blades are 288’ Long. That’s a good ways above the beacon.

    https://www.lmwindpower.com/en/produ...e-in-the-world



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    Thanks, didn't know that, we tend to do things on a bigger scale around here.

    But on a separate front why be that low at night, like my hanger neighbor used to say "dark air has no lift."

    I like the FAA ruling on wind test towers, we sponsored that in Oklahoma after an Ag pilot accident and got it past the legislature almost unanimous on the first try but our previous (idiot) Governor vetoed it out of spite.
    Last edited by OLDCROWE; 08-07-2019 at 11:49 AM.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!
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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OLDCROWE View Post
    But on a separate front why be that low at night, like my hanger neighbor used to say "dark air has no lift."
    That is not the point. There is an unmarked dangerous obstacle moving around well above the fixed obstruction lighting. Perhaps there is a low ceiling with good visibility? Perhaps there is a low light grey sky condition which blends in with the terrain? Perhaps the nearby airport has a blanket of coastal fog nearby? There could be any number of reasons for an airplane to be at low altitude. The marking lights should be at the highest point of the obstruction whether it moves or is stationary. As Chicken Hawk has noted, some of the current blades can be 288 feet above the tower. That is a lot of unmarked dangerous airspace.
    N1PA

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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    That is not the point. There is an unmarked dangerous obstacle moving around well above the fixed obstruction lighting.
    Having worked in support of that industry once-upon-a time, I don't see the technology getting there for a rotating light that won't get flung off (the tip speeds are significant), maybe in the future for new but not on retrofit so then you'd have different methodologies so I think something different is in order, perhaps a duel-light on the cab, one that flashes intermittent red and white (both are FAA obstruction identifier colors) and at a faster frequency than standard so it draws extra attention. In the mean time, keep your obstruction data base updated.

    One of the most bazar things I have seen while flying was the blades of a large wind farm turning above a low overcast.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

  15. #15
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    That's interesting as they do not appear to be moving at a high rate of speed when flying near them. At least the ones in this neck of the woods don't seem to move fast.
    Perhaps a light on the fixed portion of the tower which illuminates the blade when it is near the top of it's arc?
    N1PA

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    I would suggest that all of us write petitions for rulemaking as provided in Part 11 to address the problem, along with letters to Senators and Congress critters. The alphabet groups may help, but a grass roots effort would likely be more effective. One or 2 petitions won’t do anything, a couple hundred, maybe with a couple congressional inquiries, that will have some traction. If there is a lawyer in the bunch that could draft a sample letter, then everyone could modify it to a more personal tone and send it in.


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    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Around here they put them up in fields of 50, 100 plus. Hard to miss them. Curious to see what happens to them over time.
    Steve Pierce

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    I have 3 large farms in my area, and the real hazard are the older non marked anemometer towers they throw up and then forget about. A few years back, coming back from breakfast in Afton to the east, low level crossing the ridges that run north and south, I spotted one. It had been there for years, was gray galvanized, and well over 100' tall. The site had no ready access to it, and when I found a place to land and hiked over to it, I saw the (relatively) high dollar equipment for recording and sending it's info was gone, just the tower remained. In other words, it was abandoned, out of use, too much trouble to take down, what ever company put it up moved on.

    I contacted the Idaho Bureau of Aeronautics, got up to speed on the newer regs for the marking requirements, and then using the county records tracked down the grazing association whose land it was on. Explaining the problem, I offered to take it down, they agreed, and a few days later my Felco cable cutters made short (pun intended) of it. It's still there, no way to drive even a ATV to it, but I did pack out a couple hundred feet of the wire rope for ranch use, my pay.

    Another one a few months later, near a major Idaho city, same deal, abandoned, no telemetry on it, but this time I could not get any agency to take responsibility for it, city didn't claim it, said it was a university deal, no one there wanted to stick their neck out by giving permission. On a ridge that is a natural short cut for a scud running pilot, it was a real hazard. Bottom line, it also came down one night, 3 years later now, it's loss has never been noted, as I figured it was truly abandoned and whoever took it down ? did other pilots a favor. Point being, the older non marked ones NEED to come down, and we can do it, no one else will. It takes a couple minutes.....
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    mvivion's Avatar
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    After spending a major part of my life flying in Alaska, then moving to the Lower 48, I have to say that towers and wires scare the crap out of me. And those “Met towers” are some of the worst. At one point they were actually camouflaging them!

    Heres a recent pic of a low flight that did not end well:Click image for larger version. 

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    MTV

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    I've since seen a couple new generation MET towers go up, and followed their erection. After completion, I noticed they were painted contrasting colors, lighter and on the sectional. All the more readons to see the old, out of current regs, abandoned, ones down!

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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    That's interesting as they do not appear to be moving at a high rate of speed when flying near them. At least the ones in this neck of the woods don't seem to move fast.
    Perhaps a light on the fixed portion of the tower which illuminates the blade when it is near the top of it's arc?
    I've been thinking along the same lines. Instead of a light mounted ON the blade, difficult to power and subject to centrifugal forces, mount a spot light in front of and aft of the blade arc. If they are mounted low and focused 'up' toward the top of the blade arc, they would illuminate the length of each blade as it reaches the highest point of the arc. Also, as each blade moves through the light, it will create an on/off or strobe effect that should catch the attention of the human eye.

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    Farmboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Pierce View Post
    Around here they put them up in fields of 50, 100 plus. Hard to miss them. Curious to see what happens to them over time.
    There’s some YouTube compilations of them toppling, burning, crashing to the ground.


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    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    I fly past the windmills all the time. First ones went up West of here 20 years ago. Great navaid if you fly low and wind indicator

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"
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    Quote Originally Posted by cubdriver2 View Post
    I fly past the windmills all the time. First ones went up West of here 20 years ago. Great navaid if you fly low and wind indicator

    Glenn
    Flying close to them still gives me the heebeegeebee's but I do find them useful as a navaid. Single towers are still bothersome but these days I worry more about drones.

    From Genesis: "And God promised men that good and obedient wives would be
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post

    Click image for larger version. 

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    https://www.ntsb.gov/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=20190107X60530

    Wow!! Two serious injuries per the accident report, but (amazingly) no fatalities.
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  26. #26
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    This was back when SD marked theirs and ND didn't.
    Those little guys are hard to spot when camoed by background or poor light.
    "Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar"

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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    There may be initial resistance from some amateur radio station owners with tall towers and attached antennas. It's added maintenance and so most try to keep the height under 200' to avoid adding lighting especially if the tower itself is used as the antenna. Few bother to contrast color them which would help being seen as in Post #26. Another factor is if possible the station's tower location is typically sited on hill tops surrounded by fall away terrain, which for pilots flying low nearby in weather can be a problem. The 500' from structures FAR 91.119 (c) may apply (including laterally from the guy lines) but in weather that can be a challenge.

    A friend moved his station to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and erected a substantial antenna farm on a hill. When I visited to help operate he mentioned a few planes had flown by close and one pilot even stopped to have a safety discussion. I saw it from both sides and suggested he mark them somehow but don't know if that ever happened. There were lots of lakes for float ops nearby and it was in a potential path for other flights.

    Edit: Here's an example of several at K3LR both day and night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibFyTukErUE

    Obstruction Marking and Lighting recommendations: https://www.faa.gov/documentlibrary/...g_10062016.pdf

    Gary
    Last edited by BC12D-4-85; 08-08-2019 at 10:01 PM.

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    mvivion's Avatar
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    One of the interesting things I discovered is that a lighted tower (as mandated) lamp burns out, there is essentially no requirement to replace that bulb. There was a tower in NW Minnesota with a burned out bulb for years (literally), and never fixed.

    So, a tower can be lighted, but not lit......

    MTV

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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    One of the interesting things I discovered is that a lighted tower (as mandated) lamp burns out, there is essentially no requirement to replace that bulb. There was a tower in NW Minnesota with a burned out bulb for years (literally), and never fixed.

    So, a tower can be lighted, but not lit......

    MTV
    Hum, every obstruction I have coordinated the airspace study on included the lighting requirements and operation in the determination document.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

  30. #30
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    As far as marking and lighting: FCC - yes; FAA - maybe. That's how I read this> https://www.fcc.gov/media/policy/ant...g-requirements and https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/part-17

    Required reports to the FAA and repairs of tower lighting: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/17.48

    And now as it currently applies to amateur radio towers less than 200' tall:

    http://www.arrl.org/faa-tower-regulation-issues
    http://www.arrl.org/news/view/faa-re...t-rural-towers

    "Section 576 of the large 2018 FAA reauthorization now requires that the only towers less than 200 feet tall that have to be painted and lighted are meteorological aids and those within the glide slope of an airport or heliport. The remainder of such towers in rural or agricultural areas lower than 200 feet need to only be included in an FAA-maintained database, which will be updated by the owners of such towers."

    Gary
    Last edited by BC12D-4-85; 08-08-2019 at 10:57 PM.

  31. #31
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post
    "........ lower than 200 feet need to only be included in an FAA-maintained database, which will be updated by the owners of such towers."

    Gary
    How many people will be reviewing this FAA data base on a daily basis in order to learn if the tower population has changed?
    N1PA

  32. #32
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    I fly under them a lot, we are surrounded by them. They miss figured the bases on a large farm north of here and had to replace the blades and generators in less than a year.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Steve Pierce

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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post
    As far as marking and lighting: FCC - yes; FAA - maybe. That's how I read this> https://www.fcc.gov/media/policy/ant...g-requirements and https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/part-17

    Required reports to the FAA and repairs of tower lighting: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/17.48

    And now as it currently applies to amateur radio towers less than 200' tall:

    http://www.arrl.org/faa-tower-regulation-issues
    http://www.arrl.org/news/view/faa-re...t-rural-towers

    "Section 576 of the large 2018 FAA reauthorization now requires that the only towers less than 200 feet tall that have to be painted and lighted are meteorological aids and those within the glide slope of an airport or heliport. The remainder of such towers in rural or agricultural areas lower than 200 feet need to only be included in an FAA-maintained database, which will be updated by the owners of such towers."

    Gary
    Gary,

    Rules are well and good. There’s a large tower just north of Crookston, MN, which had inop lights for at least two or three years or more. It had been reported by at least two pilots I know of, and remained unlighted.

    Rules are one thing. Enforcement of rules are something quite different. I’m guessing the FAA receives a report, makes a call and forgets about it.

    MTV

  34. #34
    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    How many people will be reviewing this FAA data base on a daily basis in order to learn if the tower population has changed?
    Given human nature and culture being what it has become? About as many as obey the speed limit and signal for turns or lane changes. Same for 91.119 and tower maintenance. Unfortunately without enforcement and compliance these rules and regulations only become suggestions. Only the FCC has the hammer if contacted.

    Save yourself and watch out for others.

    Gary

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    Quote Originally Posted by mvivion View Post
    Gary,

    Rules are well and good. There’s a large tower just north of Crookston, MN, which had inop lights for at least two or three years or more. It had been reported by at least two pilots I know of, and remained unlighted.

    Rules are one thing. Enforcement of rules are something quite different. I’m guessing the FAA receives a report, makes a call and forgets about it.

    MTV
    Just hand a reporter the resource information and tower ownership and watch the show.
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!
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  36. #36
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    While I'm sure some enterprising mind can design a light to illuminate the blade tip at its apex, and not fly off due to the speed and force of rotation... wouldn't it be simpler to just extend a mast from the top of the generator to the height of the blade tip and install the light on that? I can't imagine it would have that much of an aerodynamic penalty on the windmill.

    From the perspective of a military pilot, the worse offense is lighting some of these towers with LEDs that are invisible through NVGs... I can't fathom how that makes sense to anyone approving these things.

  37. #37
    Chicken Hawk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fwSAR View Post
    While I'm sure some enterprising mind can design a light to illuminate the blade tip at its apex, and not fly off due to the speed and force of rotation... wouldn't it be simpler to just extend a mast from the top of the generator to the height of the blade tip and install the light on that? I can't imagine it would have that much of an aerodynamic penalty on the windmill.

    From the perspective of a military pilot, the worse offense is lighting some of these towers with LEDs that are invisible through NVGs... I can't fathom how that makes sense to anyone approving these things.
    Spec the correct light & it’s not a problem.

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    fwSAR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chicken Hawk View Post
    Spec the correct light & it’s not a problem.
    Exactly! Problem is not all of them do! The majority of tower lights out there are visible... but it's not at all uncommon to be flying along and you notice a light in your peripheral vision on a tower that is completely invisible through the goggles.
    Likes Chicken Hawk liked this post

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    Quote Originally Posted by fwSAR View Post
    From the perspective of a military pilot, the worse offense is lighting some of these towers with LEDs that are invisible through NVGs... I can't fathom how that makes sense to anyone approving these things.
    This is a civilian operations area so civilian rules. And unless you are flying an EMS bird, I doubt you'd be under goggles. On the other hand, when flying through a military operation zone, even the civilians must operate by military rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    This is a civilian operations area so civilian rules. And unless you are flying an EMS bird, I doubt you'd be under goggles. On the other hand, when flying through a military operation zone, even the civilians must operate by military rules.
    Not exactly accurate... military aircraft follow the FARs (civilian rules) when they aren't trumped by a military reg; and you can fly a civilian aircraft through a MOA under completely civilian rules anytime you like. Not IFR if it's active, and not saying it's a good idea... but the rules don't change.

    But back on point, yes - EMS, Search and Rescue, Police departments, DoD... there are a lot of entities flying in the airspace with NVGs. The goal should be to keep everyone safe.

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