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Governor Fallin Vetoes Bill Requiring Registration Of Temporary Towers

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Photo of the tower near Balko, after it was hit by a crop-dusting airplane in August 2013. [NTSB] Photo of the tower near Balko, after it was hit by a crop-dusting airplane in August 2013. [NTSB]
Photo of the crashed crop-dusting airplane. [NTSB] Photo of the crashed crop-dusting airplane. [NTSB]
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required the registration and marking of all meteorological evaluation towers in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission had championed Senate Bill 1195 as a way to protect low-flying aircraft. In a news release after the senate passed the bill last week, the commission said several pilots and passengers in low-flying aircraft had died after the aircraft collided with unregistered towers.

The towers, called METs for short, are not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration as long as they're less than 200 feet tall.

The most recent fatality involving one happened near Balko, in the eastern end of the Oklahoma panhandle, on August 5, 2013. A crop dusting pilot hit a 197-foot tall MET on his way to apply pesticide to a field.

In its final report on that crash, the National Transportation Safety Board specifically mentioned the dangers posed by METs.

3/24/2014: Related Story: NTSB: Fatal Oklahoma Crop Dusting Crash Illustrates Dangers Of Temporary Towers  

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission agreed with the NTSB.

Senate Bill 1195 would have required METs that are at least 50 feet in height to be painted in alternating bands of orange and white for their entire length. Marker balls would have been required on the outside guy wires and all METs would have to be recorded in a database created by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

All existing towers would have had to satisfy the new requirements within a year, all new towers would have had to be constructed with them. Owners who failed to comply would have been subject to a fine.

In a message included in her veto Governor Fallin said, "Anemometers serve as critical tools for Oklahoma citizens and businesses to assess wind resources, and assist meteorologists in providing accurate weather forecasts."

"Anemometer towers are appropriately regulated through Airport Zoning Act and the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act. Further, the concerns attempted to be addressed by the Bill are better addressed through administrative rule making and civil remedies, rather than through criminal penalties," the governor wrote.

After the senate passed the bill, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission said it would have been used as a template by other states.

Victor Bird, the director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said he was disappointed by the governor's action.

"The governor is a pilot, two of her children are pilots," said Bird. "She wants the skies of Oklahoma to be safe, for all pilots." He said she's done a lot to help the aviation industry in Oklahoma. He took the blame for the veto, saying he hadn't done enough to educate the governor on the benefits of the bill.

Bird said he's particularly disappointed for Senator Charles Wyrick, (D-Fairland), one of the bill's sponsors, whose son is a crop dusting pilot.

Bird thinks the bill is dead, but hopes the governor will use administrative rules to achieve most of its goals.

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