FAA: Farm equipment radio interference threatens air traffic

ATLANTA (AP) — Radio interference from a farm’s massive metal crop-watering structure is causing havoc for air traffic in the sky over Georgia, federal authorities said in a lawsuit filed this week.

The irrigation structure is on a south Georgia farm where the Federal Aviation Administration has a radio transmitter to relay signals that keep aircraft on course, according to the federal lawsuit.

Interference caused by the 1,200-foot-long structure forced the FAA to shut down its transmitter in February, affecting operations of nine airports. The proximity of Robins Air Force Base makes the situation even more serious, the government said in its complaint.

Flight safety has been compromised, the lawsuit warns.

“The potential for catastrophic harm is great,” U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler says in the complaint, which is also signed by the manager of an FAA facility in Columbus, Georgia.

The lawsuit doesn’t suggest the irrigation structure is actively transmitting a signal. Rather, it says the huge metal framework is degrading the FAA’s signal, which is susceptible to “reflection or scattering” by nearby structures.