Pilot unhappy with bill limiting blinking lights on turbines

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 8:53 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A bill criticized by some pilots is on its way to Governor Laura Kelly’s desk. The Kansas Legislature approved a bill to limit red blinking lights on wind turbines, and one pilot said the technology could present a danger.

Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 49, which would require light-mitigating technology systems on new and existing wind turbines. Supporters say the technology on turbines would keep lights off unless planes are nearby.

“I’m not convinced that instilling ADLS technology on wind turbines would aid in the restoration of natural twilight and nocturnal beauty of all who currently experience the distraction of red blinking lights in the evening and night sky,” said Representative Linda Moser (R-Wheaton).

Some pilots, however, aren’t happy with the proposal.

“I think it’s a stupid move,” said Ron Ryan, a pilot for more than 40 years. “I mean, at what price about safety. There’s a lot of little airplanes and big airplanes flying around and those towers are tall enough that I call them airplane grabbers. And certainly having those lights on at night is the safe thing to do.”

If the governor signs the bill into law, any new wind turbine operator would have to apply for the FAA’s approval to use the technology beginning July 1.

In January 2026, any existing wind turbines would need FAA approval.

The bill says the developers and owners of the turbines are responsible for paying the cost, unless counties or municipalities offer financial help.

Ryan said he lost a friend to an unlit tower and doesn’t want that to happen in Kansas.

“Killed him and his two boys,” Ryan said. “So I’m a little bit more sensitive about having towers. If they’re going to put them up, light them up.”