Shorter Rural Towers to Be Lit

August 4, 2016–Some towers in rural areas under 200 feet will have to have lights under new Federal Aviation Administration legislation signed into law, David Oxenford, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, noted in a blog posting today. “Broadcasters and tower companies have long relied on FAA rules that generally don’t require the lighting of towers under 200 feet in height except when these shorter towers may interfere with the flight path of an airport. So the vast majority of these short towers used by broadcasters (sometimes simply for mounting auxiliary antennas) and by other wireless users have not been lit,” the blog posting noted. “That apparently will change under the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, passed by Congress earlier this summer and signed into law on July 15. Under provisions of this act, the FAA is required to adopt rules to require the marking and lighting of freestanding structures with heights of between 50 and 200 feet which are located in rural, undeveloped areas. The act refers to towers that will need to be marked and lit as ‘covered towers.’ The new marking and lighting requirements will apply not just to new towers, but also to existing towers (after a one-year phase in period after the FAA’s new rules become effective).”

He noted that covered towers include those that are self-standing or guy wire-supported and are outside an incorporated city or town, on undeveloped land, or agricultural land. However, towers next to houses, barns, electric utility stations, or other buildings are exempt.

“The new law was apparently adopted at the urging of rural flying groups, including those involved in crop dusting, members of which apparently have high rates of accidents,” Mr. Oxenford said. “That is why there is the emphasis on rural towers – and the exclusions for those in developed areas where such planes are unlikely to be flying.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com