Lights Out On The Radio Tower

Update: As of mid-September 2019, the tower light is again working. It took 7 months.


A short distance from the back of our house is a tall radio tower. We normally see this 100 meter tall structure with some red lights along its length and a blinking red light on top. It is visible through our living room windows. This is a view one day a couple of years ago when I walked close to it.

Zoomed in on the top one can see the light that normally blinks to warn aircraft. We have a lot of low flying helicopter traffic carrying patients to the University of Iowa for medical care. It is very important for them to see it, especially at night.

 

In early February I noticed none of the lights on the tower were glowing. The top light was not blinking. Curiosity got the best of me. I decided to email the facilities office at the university to tell them. I assumed they already knew. But, just in case, it wouldn’t hurt. I got a quick response and was included in subsequent emails to different offices as they tried to establish who was responsible for fixing the problem.


Within two days it was clear the situation was under control. Here are the exchanges. Some names were removed in the interest of privacy.


Feb 4, 2019 at 2:09 PM

To: facilities

I’ve noticed that the lights on the tower have been off for several days. I see it from my living room. I assume facilities knows.

Jim R

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From: facilities Feb 4, 2019 2:12 PM

To: John; Christopher

Is this something we take care of??

Chris

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Feb 4, 2019 at 2:13 PM

To: Jim R

Jim:

I’m not sure this is ours.  I am checking with our Electric Distribution folks.

Chris

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From: Christopher

Feb 04, 2019 2:47 PM

Yes , we will check to see if the breaker has tripped and go from there … could be the lamp is blown again…

Chris

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Feb 4, 2019 at 2:55 PM

To: Jim R

Jim:

See Electric Dist. response.  Thanks for letting  us know about this light.

Chris

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From: Christopher

Feb 05, 2019 8:26 AM

To: facilities

Sorry I miss spoke I had a Water Tower  Flash back… The Radio Tower is at NADS ?? and you may have to contact Cory the electrician there he’ll sure be able to get to the bottom of this .

Chris

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From: facilities

Feb 5, 2019 8:27 AM

To: Corey

Cory:

Is this something you take care of?  If not, do you know who does?

Chris

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From: Corey

Feb 05, 2019 8:31 AM

To: facilities

I do not take care of this as it has nothing to do with NADS. I know Cummings does the maintenance on it as I see their truck out there occasionally. FM checks the spill kit which is stored at NADS. Might want to check with Ann R.

Corey

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From: facilities

Feb 5, 2019 8:32 AM

To: Corey

Already checked with Rich & he thought it was Electric Dist.  I’ll call them again.  Thanks for the information.

Chris

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From: facilities

Feb 5, 2019 8:34 AM

To: George

I’m told you might know who takes care of this.  If you do, can you let me know so I can pass this on to them?  Thanks.

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From: George P

Feb 05, 2019 11:54 AM

To: facilities; James

James,

Can you look into this and see if this is the case. Let me know if you need anything from us. We do have someone on the tower tomorrow if we can get them the lights.

George

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From: James

Feb 05, 2019 2:21 PM

To: George; facilities

Hi George,

ITS called me a few days ago to let me know of the outage.  I have bulbs on order as of Friday.  Expect it to be out for about thirty days….bulbs are going to take three weeks.  The FAA was notified within 30 minutes per regulation.  The current NOTAM issued (Notice to Airman) is good for 45 days.

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15 thoughts on “Lights Out On The Radio Tower

  1. Jim R Post author

    That was not easy to watch. I’ve seen one like it with a drone following alongside. It makes my stomach turn in the same way watching climbers go up steep rock faces. Those people have nerves I don’t have. I think I could climb up quite a ways inside a cage inside the tower framework. But free-climbing? Nope.

    Reply
    1. Jim R Post author

      I noticed a few days before that is was dark. The last exchange suggested someone was aware and had notified pilots. Maybe my email got some people involved who didn’t need to be.

      I’m looking forward to seeing those lights again soon.

      Reply
  2. shoreacres

    By the time I finished reading this, I was thinking of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine. I’m glad it finally got clarified, and it was good that you got in touch with someone. Like channel markers on the water, those lights aren’t “just for pretty.”

    Reply
    1. Jim R Post author

      That is a good routine. I’m guessing the last person on the exchange, George, knew about the light right away. It sounded like he already had the bulbs ordered. My email might have triggered a bunch of other offices to go on the hunt. I like the not ‘just for pretty’ phrase. They aren’t.

      Reply
  3. jim fetig

    Interesting. I’m wondering what I would have done. I might have looked for a contact number on the fence around the tower or called the radio station. Having worked at a university, facilities (auxiliary services on my campus) would have been the last place I would have thought to call … They never know who’s on first, second or on third for that matter. 😉

    Reply

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