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Yamada sponsors bill to protect crop dusters

A bill that could protect crop dusting pilots is making progress.

In January, veteran pilot Stephen Allen was killed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta when he struck an unmarked tower that measures wind.

The tower Allen struck was 198 feet tall just short of the FAA requirement of 200 hundred feet for markings.

Now, Assembly Bill 511, introduced by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada would cover all towers between 50 and 200 feet. The towers would have to display orange and white striping, tracking balls on the guy wires, and blinking lights.

The towers are used to measure wind currents to find the best locations for new wind farms.

The bill passed out of its first policy hearing Wednesday, receiving a 9-0 unanimous aye vote in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.

The bill will now move to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Allen, 58, of Courtland, died Jan. 10. Witnesses said Allen, a veteran pilot, did not attempt to evade the tower prior to the crash, suggesting that the tower was not visible.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic and possibly avoidable death of Allen,” Yamada stated. “After reviewing the facts surrounding the incident, it was clear that the state needs a standard for these towers.”

In the Wednesday morning hearing, Karen Allen, the widow of Stephen Allen, joined by his two daughters, gave emotional testimony urging the members of the committee to support this legislation. Numerous family and
friends of Stephen also lent their support in committee.

In a joint statement, Gail Beck and Angela Lucero, the daughters of Stephen Allen, praised Yamada for bringing the bill forward.

As the number of renewable energy developers grow, so does the demand for green energy measuring tools and instruments.

Wind farm developers use the towers which are thin and made of steel. They are built slightly less than 200 feet tall and erected nearly overnight in order to edge out competitors. This practice renders them nearly invisible to pilots flying at low heights.

“Competitive advantage is not worth someone’s life,” said Yamada. “If the MET were just two feet taller, the FAA would have required orange and white stripes and lighting, and Stephen Allen would still be with us today.”