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Cape Wind FAA Sign-off Under Fire

June 21, 2012

Cape Wind‘s impact on air traffic has been spotlighted in a series of recent articles in the Boston Herald. A release of public documents has shed light on the fast-tracking of the 130-turbine project, despite concerns about air traffic raised with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to Christine McConville and John Zaremba, reporting in the Boston Herald  (Cape Wind foes call for probe into pols’ ‘bully’ tactics, 6/20/12), Audra Parker and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound  announced they had amassed a “trove of bombshell internal Federal Aviation Administration emails that suggest the agency buckled to political pressure and down-played fears that the 440-foot tall  spinning turbines would interfere with radar and ensnare small, low-flying aircraft.” Parker had accused the FAA of “failing its statutory safety-first mandate” and stated in a letter, the “FAA has made decisions based on political factors rather than the recommendations of the local aviation community and even its own employees.”

In a June 15, 2012 Associated Press article in the Herald (Documents show FAA felt pressure to approve Cape Wind), details of the concerns raised by traffic controllers within the agency were noted: “…the FAA was attempting to address concerns shared by local air traffic controllers about radar reflections, or ‘clutter,’ expected from the wind farm’s rotating turbines. The clutter makes it extremely difficult for air traffic controllers to spot planes over the wind farm that aren’t equipped with the transponders that signal their location – usually smaller planes.”

Air Traffic Controller Mark Cool issued a separate statement regarding his experience at the FAA radar facility known as “Cape Approach:”

The clutter, false targets and blind spots make it extremely difficult for the air traffic controller to SAFELY do their job. If this is the condition with only 6 industrial size turbines, the effect would undeniably be worse with 130!  If further proof that the CapeWind and on-shore turbine sites are too close to air traffic/military radar installations is necessary, simply google what has happened in Europe. “

Cool cites “a 2-year ‘trouble call’ log denoting controller-reported radar anomalies.” He asserts, “A correlation of evidence, by this log, exists between a higher volume of ‘trouble call’ incident reports and the operation of the 6 big on-shore wind turbines” in Falmouth.

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