I had a discussion last night with FSS about a 2000' tower near Houston that had the lights out. Apparently they can't post a NOTAM based on a pilot's report, it has to come from the owner of the tower. He asked if I could drive by and find out who owns it, "it's usually on the fence". Uh, no, I flew past it at 0230 and it had no lights. He said he may try calling the local sheriff or something.
This is enough to make the short hairs on your neck stand up. An unlit tower standing 2000 feet up into the sky is a death trap looking for a victim. So how do we avoid being said victim?
In Mike's case, technology gave him a big assist. The aircraft he is flying has equipment that displays tower locations graphically. I have no such equipment in the aircraft I fly. While NVGs increase our ability to see at night, we could easily be upon a tower before seeing it under goggles.
The FAA requirement to check a route prior to flying it has been in effect for several years now, and we haven't had a tower strike in a while. I wonder if pilots are becoming a complacent about completing this step prior to lift off - just a glance at a chart. " I am here... going there.... there's the highest tower..." Even the most dedicated pilot can get a route change, or deviate for weather or ATC or traffic. In that case, the preflight check no longer works. We really have to be familiar enough with the area to simply know where the big ones are.
It's a big sky, The odds of striking a tower are small. But it happens.
|The aftermath of a tower strike|