NTSB Issues MET Tower Safety Alert in the Wake of Ag Pilot Fatality

On March 11, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a Safety Alert to warn pilots of low-flying aircraft about the dangers associated with unmarked towers built to record weather observations.

Many Meteorological Evaluation Towers (METs) fall just below the 200-foot Federal Aviation Administration threshold for obstruction markings and can be difficult to see from the air. That's a dangerous proposition for aircraft conducting low-flight operations, including aerial applicators, emergency medical helicopters, law enforcement, fire suppression and other low-altitude activities. The NTSB is urging pilots to maintain vigilance during low-altitude flights and asking them to encourage the markings of METs in their area.

Since 2003 the NTSB has investigated three fatal accidents involving in-flight collisions with METs, including, most recently, one in January 2011 when an ag pilot working on an island off the coast of San Francisco lost his life in a collision with an unmarked MET.

Including January's fatality, over the past 12 years there have been nine fatal agricultural aviation accidents involving collisions with towers.

Let's Be Fair About Sharing The Air

NAAA applauds the NTSB's actions and in particular its suggestion that the FAA institute mandatory application and marking requirements for METs under 200 feet. NAAA has launched a public outreach campaign to raise awareness about the worrisome effects of wind energy development on agriculture and aviation. The industry’s concerns about safety and accessibility are addressed in a series of Wind Tower Education ads that make a simple plea: “Let’s Be Fair About Sharing The Air.”