New Arkansas Scoreboard Alarms FAA

Wednesday, September 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The new huge scoreboard and video screen at Razorback Stadium, built to show replays, sends out emergency signals indicating a plane is down.

The screen was used last week at the Arkansas-Alabama football game despite a protest by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Donrey Media Group reported Tuesday.

The FAA, in a letter Saturday to the Federal Communications Commission, complained about the scoreboard interfering with a frequency used in emergencies.

The problem was first identified during a test Sept. 19, when the signal was picked up at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va. In northwest Arkansas, the Civil Air Patrol prepared for action after the 6 a.m. transmission.

The transmitter that sends signals to the 3,210-square-foot video screen apparently did so on an emergency frequency. The video screen was being tested in advance of the screen's Razorback Stadium debut Saturday at the Alabama-Arkansas football game.

But while Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles said the frequency would be modified, it wasn't fixed to the FAA's satisfaction by game time.

FAA spokesman John Clabes said the FCC told the University of Arkansas to "go ahead and leave it on" despite the FAA's objection. He said the electromagnetic interference could mask real emergency calls by aircraft.

The FCC said the FAA told the FCC that interference had been eliminated.

"They did write a letter, but they informed us in a conference call that the interference had been reduced to the point where it was not causing a problem to their system," said FCC spokesman Richard Welch.

But Mr. Clabes responded, "That's not right because I sat in on the teleconference where they discussed it at great length and it is a problem, and the FCC decided to go ahead anyway."

Mr. Broyles said the issue was too technical to discuss and issued a one-paragraph statement for the university.

"On Friday, modifications were made to the board which eliminated the frequency from recognition by FAA ground sites. As a result of this, the FCC made the determination that the board's signal strength did not present a public danger. Further modifications which will eliminate any signal transmission will take place prior to the Georgia game on Saturday," the statement read, in part.