FAA Releases Guidance on Marking MET Towers

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released the long-awaited guidance for marking MET towers less than 200 feet above ground level (AGL) in remote and rural areas. NAAA is very pleased to report that the comments provided by members and the Association have yielded guidance favorable to agricultural aviation. The FAA agrees that “marking these structures would enhance the conspicuity of these METs, particularly for low-level agricultural operations.”

Find-MET-arrow-380pixLook closely, and you'll see the arrow is pointing to an unmarked 198-foot MET tower. The FAA agrees "marking these structures would enhance the conspicuity of these METs, particularly for low-level agricultural operations."

As a result of the 457 comments in favor of guidance for marking METs, the FAA recommends the following: (1) METs should be painted in accordance to criteria contained in Chapter 3, paragraphs 30–33 of AC No. 70/7460–1, specifically, with alternate bands of aviation orange and white paint. In addition, all markings should be replaced when faded or otherwise deteriorated; (2) METs should have high visibility sleeves installed on the outer guy wires of METs as described in AC No. 70/7460–1; and (3) METs should have high visibility spherical marker (or cable) balls of aviation orange color attached to the guy wires. The FAA, however, recognizes various weather conditions and manufacturing placement standards may affect the placement and use of high visibility sleeves and/or spherical markers. Thus, flexibility is needed when determining sleeve length and marker placement on METs.

Most of NAAA’s recommendations were accepted by the FAA except for those requesting lighting on the tower and the creation of a national database. The FAA stated it was not practical for the Agency to recommend lights for METs, as pre-existing power sources were not present in many remote locations and the use of solar lighting had not been studied. Additionally, while the FAA did not feel it was feasible for the Agency to maintain a national database, they did not object to state or local jurisdiction maintaining or providing a source. Only three of the total 460 comments were in opposition to the proposed guidance and an overwhelming number referenced the tragic fatality of one of our own earlier this year—Stephen Allen, aerial applicator from California.

This is a tremendous success for the aerial application industry in enhancing aviation safety and it was done with intense resistance from Goliath-like opposition in the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Iberdrola—the Spanish electric utilities corporation and largest renewable energy operator in the world.  AWEA proposed painting only the top 1/3 of METs, but NAAA contended that paint needed to be applied to the entire vertical length to be effective.  The FAA agreed that painting the entire structure provides the best visibility for pilots.  AWEA and Iberdrola also stated that there was a limit to what the guy-wires could hold in terms of weight and were concerned that sleeves marking them would stress the towers, yet the FAA concluded that sleeves and spherical marker balls would enhance the conspicuity of METs particularly for low flying agricultural and other aviation operations. 

The FAA has indicated the Advisory Circular, referenced AC No. 70/7460-1, will be revised within the next six months. Additionally, while the FAA did not recommend establishing a national tower database, NAAA continues to pursue a Congressional mandate within the FAA Reauthorization bill that would conduct a study of what would be required to feasibly have a database cataloging all guy-wired and free-standing tower locations. To read the recently released FAA notice in its entirety, please click here.

NAAA wishes to recognize all organizations and individuals that commented and urged the government to act on this MET marking guidance.