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What happens when a cell tower warning light needs to be fixed?

By MARSHA MCKENNA Senior Editor Published: April 30, 2017 12:00 AM
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While most might not notice if the lights at the top of a cell tower are working, at least one resident did and inquired about potential danger.

That resident, concerned that a plane might fly into it, called police and the city, who in turn contacted Mark Fritz, director of operations for the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District.

"The cell tower behind the high school has a broken aviation/navigation light at the top. When that happens an alarm goes off and AT&T is notified," Fritz says. "The [Federal Aviation Administration] was then notified and they have rerouted air traffic for the next two weeks until AT&T can get a technician out to repair it."

Fritz says when the police and city contacted him, the process was explained and "everything was fine."

"Pilots are kept informed of any obstructions that could be in their flight path," says David Poluga, airport manager at the Kent State University Airport on Kent Road in Stow.

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"It's a digital system that advises pilots of air navigation hazards specifically like this," explains Poluga. "While it's a cell tower that exists and the [air] traffic would already be trying to go around that tower, they're made aware there's an unlit obstruction in that area."

This particular cell tower is 150 feet high, according to Fritz.

Airports and pilots are kept informed of locations of all cell towers. "In general all towers, for just their level of incompatibility with air navigation, are all published on airport maps ... we definitely want to know where the towers are specifically," says Paluga. "As a rule of thumb, we avoid the towers anyways."

Paluga explains that airports and their personnel are involved when cell towers are proposed. "It's a pretty nice system. When towers go up, we're part of the process to make sure we're made aware that the tower isn't going to impact our safety." Working with the FAA during the process, he says they can comment on whether it's going to impact operations before the Federal Communications Commission issues permits to the communication system utilizing the tower.

"Having been trained as an Air Traffic Controller while in the Air Force, I appreciate the resident's sensitivity to this sort of thing," says Fritz. "After all, how many people look up and concern themselves with a aviation/navigation tower light."

Email: mmckenna@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9430


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