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Pilots warn wind farms may blow in trouble

The airport has two key concerns -- whether the turbines would create safety hazards and whether their presence might eliminate future opportunities to lower the airport's minimum altitude setting as global positioning systems become more sophisticated. Shuck said four of the turbine sites proposed by Invenergy are of special concern.

Members of a pilots club say they fear the proposed windmills will affect flights to Roanoke Regional Airport.

A pilots club in Southwest Virginia warned Monday that towering windmills proposed for a ridgeline in Roanoke County would create hazards for pilots and passengers and lead to increased delays or diversions during bad weather of flights trying to land at Roanoke Regional Airport.

"This is a very big deal," said Matthew Broughton, a pilot who is an aviation lawyer for a Roanoke-based firm and president of the IFR Pilots Club.

In mid-May, Chicago-based Invenergy applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a "hazard determination" related to the company's quest to erect 18 windmills atop Poor Mountain, which already hosts telecommunications towers and related infrastructure. The company hopes to generate power and sell it to a utility.

Each windmill would be about 443 feet tall from the base to the tip of the highest blade, according to Invenergy. By one estimate, that would be about twice as tall as the mountain's highest existing tower.

That's too tall, said Gordon Ewald, a flight instructor and member of the pilots club.

"The wind turbines aren't the problem," Ewald said. "It's where... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Members of a pilots club say they fear the proposed windmills will affect flights to Roanoke Regional Airport.

A pilots club in Southwest Virginia warned Monday that towering windmills proposed for a ridgeline in Roanoke County would create hazards for pilots and passengers and lead to increased delays or diversions during bad weather of flights trying to land at Roanoke Regional Airport.

"This is a very big deal," said Matthew Broughton, a pilot who is an aviation lawyer for a Roanoke-based firm and president of the IFR Pilots Club.

In mid-May, Chicago-based Invenergy applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a "hazard determination" related to the company's quest to erect 18 windmills atop Poor Mountain, which already hosts telecommunications towers and related infrastructure. The company hopes to generate power and sell it to a utility.

Each windmill would be about 443 feet tall from the base to the tip of the highest blade, according to Invenergy. By one estimate, that would be about twice as tall as the mountain's highest existing tower.

That's too tall, said Gordon Ewald, a flight instructor and member of the pilots club.

"The wind turbines aren't the problem," Ewald said. "It's where they want to put them. I certainly want wind turbines, but not sticking into the airspace pilots have to occupy when weather is the most challenging."

When weather is lousy in the Roanoke Valley and clouds hang low, pilots and air traffic controllers favor runway 6, which is the Roanoke airport's longest, Ewald said, and offers pilots flying by instruments an opportunity to fly closer to the ground to get beneath a low ceiling.

Broughton said the corridor of approach for runway 6 is too close for comfort to Poor Mountain's windy ridgeline if it were to have towering turbines with blades the color of clouds.

If the turbine project moves forward, Broughton said he believes the FAA will require a steeper descent for landings and raise the minimum altitude for pilots bound for runway 6. The current minimum is set at 405 feet above the runway, meaning a pilot cannot descend any lower before either seeing the airport or making a missed approach, Broughton said.

The Roanoke airport already has minimum altitude limits higher than airports in Lynchburg and Greensboro. N.C., he said -- which means aircraft diverted from Roanoke might be able to land at those airports if conditions at Roanoke are too bad.

Jacqueline Shuck, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Airport, said diversion of Roanoke-bound flights to competing airports is uncommon. If weather in Roanoke is bad, she said, airlines typically hold flights at points of origin such as Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. -- and flights already airborne turn around if they cannot land in Roanoke.

Shuck said the airport's current analysis does not suggest the turbines would cause the FAA to increase the minimum altitude established for landing on runway 6.

She said the airport has two key concerns -- whether the turbines would create safety hazards and whether their presence might eliminate future opportunities to lower the airport's minimum altitude setting as global positioning systems become more sophisticated.

Shuck said four of the turbine sites proposed by Invenergy are of special concern because of the combined height of the terrain with a windmill.

Don Giecek, Invenergy's business development manager, said Monday that the FAA's review could take months.

"Without FAA approval, this project will not go forward," he said.

Giecek said the aviation administration's analysis could direct that some turbine sites be eliminated or that the number of turbines be reduced.

Invenergy said it likely will invest between $80 million and $100 million in the project, which has, in these preliminary stages, received support from some quarters and opposition from others.


Source: http://www.roanoke.com/news...

JUL 13 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27193-pilots-warn-wind-farms-may-blow-in-trouble
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