Tower Lighting Veteran Flashes Warnings About Upcoming FAA Rules

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ken meadorKen Meador’s twenty-plus years in the tower lighting business have given him a great perspective on trends in that sector of the industry.  Ken was the former president of TWR Lighting and is now is an independent consultant with his own firm KDM Business Advisory Services.

“Probably the biggest trend in tower lighting is being driven by the recent FAA changes to the Advisory Circular (#AC 70/7460-1L),” Ken said.

“It became effective December 4, 2015, with exception to flashing L-810 lighting which has a delayed effective date and becomes mandatory on September 15, 2016. Bear in mind all ACs are “informational” docs to be used as guidance, not regulatory. However, in most instances the FAA expects,’encourages’ their actions and advice to be implemented or followed.”

Ken outlined the principle changes in the AC:

A) the height of a structure identified as an obstruction has been lowered from 500 feet AGL to 499 AGL. (You can reference 14 CFR Part 77. ) Effectively meaning all structures over 499 AGL are considered obstructions. Further, the FAA will conduct a study to determine their effect on navigable airspace. In essence, the release of this circular amends the lighting requirements for ASR-registered towers.. Each new or altered tower antenna structure must conform to the painting (marking) and lighting specifications set forth in the FAA’s final determination of “no hazard” and the associated FAA study for that particular structure.

B) the standards for voluntary marking  less than 200 feet AGL were added to provide guidance on increasing conspicuity of theses structures. Primarily for ag-related (crop dusting) operations and guy wires.

C) a whole new chapter 14 was added covering Aircraft Detection Systems.

D) another change created new standards for marking and lighting as relating to reduced impact on migratory birds.

E) the circular now allows for medium-intensity white and medium-intensity dual obstruction lights on towers up to 700 feet AGL.

Some other notable changes include:

A) FAA red obstruction towers from 150 feet to 350 feet will be required to have two or more L-810 lights which flash at 30 flashes per minute. A potential downside will be that as a flashing light it has become a reportable NOTAM marking fixture.

B) red steady burning L810 sidelights must be removed from red obstruction lamped towers above 350 feet to 2,200 feet. Accordingly, the L 864 flashing beacon must flash at 30 flashes per minute.

C) medium intensity towers have been extended to 700 feet, meaning all current high intensity lit towers 500 feet to 700 feet can be converted.

D) to insure consistent light output the tower lenses must be inspected every 24 months.

Impacts from the changes:

A) Lighting manufacturers should see an increase in medium insists lighting systems sales to broadcasters who historically painted their towers.

B) again lighting manufacturers should see new sales in flashing L 810 for red light system 30 flash per minute compliance. All new towers ( after September 15, 2016) will require flashing L 810 side lights.

C) the downside to lighting system manufacturers and cost savings to tower owners will be triple beacon systems no longer (after September 15, 2016) required to have marker lights.

D) another downside to lighting manufacturers but upside to tower owners of towers 500 feet to 700 feet is that the high intensity lights are no longer required, but both benefit from the use of medium intensity dual obstruction systems as replacements. The tower owners will also probably benefit from less grief from the neighbors who live close to towers with high intensity systems which are converted to medium intensity.

As a result of this new AC there are other related impacts good, not so good and probably bad for the manufacturers, tower owners and contractors.

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