CHEYENNE — It’s not immediately clear whether Cheyenne Regional Airport will be one of the 440 airports whose air traffic control towers will be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
But even if the tower’s lightning safety system is assessed for any deficiencies, local airport Director of Aviation David Haring said it’s unlikely to present any major issues.
“All the towers are supposed to have lightning protection, and ours does as well,” Haring said. “I don’t foresee anything on (the FAA’s agenda) being challenging, but it could lead to additional regulations.”
Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region, noted Thursday that the agency is primarily concerned with airport towers that were built prior to the enactment of its first Lightning Protection, Grounding, Bonding and Shielding (LPGBS) standards. Kenitzer said 204 such towers fit that profile and were built prior to 1978.
“These pre-existing towers were built to the construction standards that were in place at the time,” he stated via email.
Haring noted that the Cheyenne Regional Airport’s tower was built in the early 2000s, meaning it should be up to snuff with the LPGBS standards. But even so, he said that doesn’t mean heavy lightning hasn’t caused issues here before.
“During the summer, it’s not uncommon to have some sort of a lightning storm every afternoon,” he said. “There have been instances on our field where lightning has been significant enough that they did clear the tower.”
Still, both Haring and Kenitzer noted that the lightning strike that injured an air traffic controller at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport air traffic control tower is unprecedented in the FAA’s history.
“(It) was the first time in the FAA’s history that an employee received an electrical shock from lightning while working in a control tower,” Kenitzer said.