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Are windfarms dangerous for pilots?

The latest hazard to safe helicopter and small plane flight in the United States comes in the form of wind farms. These collections of modern-day windmills, seen as an environmentally friendly energy option to gas, coal, and nuclear power plants, are proliferating. The U.S. Energy Dept. projects wind farms could provide 20 percent of electricity in the country by 2030, compared to 1 percent today. Each of a farm’s windmills typically includes a three-bladed rotor mounted on a straight pole. Many are mounted on ridgelines to better catch the wind. One problem is that the tower, even if it is illuminated in accordance with FAA obstruction rules, doesn’t identify the top of the obstruction. A rotor blade at the top of its rotation may extend 80 ft or more above the top of its mounting pole, effectively extending a ridgeline (as an obstruction) by nearly 200 ft. Another problem is that wind farms can crop up faster than obstacle databases and aeronautical charts are updated.

windfarm

So of course the world of energy and the economic future will not change their plans for us who fly helicopters and small planes. So what will happen? Basically, pilots will need to be more careful, as small plane pilots. But if wind farm proliferate, may we expect more accidents in the future? We already know of two pilots who crashed, not because the wind farm was dangerous, but because it led to dangerous conduct from the pilots, flying between windmills. But the hazard is real. And the challenge is truly to update databases and aeronautical charts as fast as possible.



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