In March 2010, a Kansas City field agent, responding to a complaint of an unlit tower, contacted the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). The FAA was unaware of the outage and issued a Notice to Airman ("NOTAM"). The NOTAM serves to alert pilots to any hazards in a flight path or at a specific location. The unlit tower, located in Caldwell, Kansas, exceeds 200 feet in height. In accordance with the FCC’s Rules ( Section 17.7), towers taller than 200 feet must be registered with the FCC and the FAA. Section 17.21 of the FCC’s Rules mandates that antenna structures exceeding that height also be lit and painted. The lighting and painting requirements are a necessary safety measure, ensuring that such structures are visible to low flying aviation traffic. In the absence of safety lighting, tower owners are required to contact the FAA and request issuance of a NOTAM. Consequently, Section 17.47 requires tower owners to inspect tower lighting at least once every 24 hours. Inspections may be undertaken visually or employ the use of an automated alarm system, which would notify a select individual in the event that the tower lights malfunction.
During an interview with a station employee, the Kansas City field agent was informed that the technician responsible for the daily visual inspection of the Caldwell tower had been laid off several months before. In June 2010, the Kansas City Field Office issued a Letter of Inquiry to the licensee. In its response, the tower owner indicated that the tower had been visually inspected until late September 2009, when the cable system utilizing the tower discontinued its cable service. The tower owner admitted that it "did not have any maintenance or contact with the tower after October 1, 2009."
The base forfeiture for failing to conduct the required daily monitoring is $2,000. Citing its authority under Section 503 of the United States Code, the FCC tripled the fine to $6,000 because the tower owner had been fined on two separate occasions for the same violation at two commonly owned tower sites.