New year will usher in eased FAA lighting failure reporting requirements

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

FCC-Lighting_Rules_ChangeThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through coordination with the FCC and other federal stakeholders, expects by mid-January 2015 to streamline the online process for submitting Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) to alert pilots to tower lighting outages.

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued an advisory earlier this week announcing the FAA’s new process which will permit tower owners to individually select the active period for each NOTAM in lieu of the current default requirement of 15 days.

Under the current system, tower owners are required to notify the FAA, either via telephone or through a web-based form maintained by the FAA’s US NOTAM office, within 30 minutes of discovering a lighting failure and then  take steps the repair the outage as quickly as possible.

The agencies recognized that some lighting outages cannot be addressed within the 15 day period and having a default period may create unnecessary burdens and inefficiencies on tower owners forced to make repeated filings and the agencies that process them.

To streamline the process, the FAA plans to revise its web-based form by mid-January to allow tower owners to self-select an expected repair date and not be required to conform to the current 15-day shotclock.

Aggressive enforcement on the horizon?
While the change will allow tower owners to self-select the repair deadline, every outage should be corrected as soon as possible, but the FCC said it will respond aggressively if they discover tower owners are abusing a system designed to protect aviation safety.

The FCC said its staff may investigate cases where a tower owner selects an unusually long time period to make a repair, where multiple NOTAMs appear to have been submitted for a single tower within a relatively short period of time; where a tower owner repeatedly fails to cancel NOTAMs after repairs are complete; or where other circumstances suggest a need for closer scrutiny.

Few citations issued in 2014
Either tower owners are maintaining their lighting systems more effectively or the FCC’s enforcement agents are attending to other priorities since only a handful of citations were made in 2014.

The last tower lighting-related notice of liability was issued on Oct. 17, 2014 to American Tower Corporation in the amount of $10,000 for a lighting failure on a structure in Oak Park, Mich.

On Aug. 28, 2014, the FCC reduced the fine given to Telava Wireless to $7,500 from $17,000 because the company said it couldn’t afford the fine and the FCC agreed that the reduction was in order for the lighting failure that occurred in 2012.

The more common FCC violation cited by the agency to tower owners is for not having their gate locked. They also carry some of the highest fines.

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