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So you’re flying along on a hazy day when you notice one of those tall “obstruction” symbols on the sectional chart. Or maybe you’re tech-savvy and you see it on ForeFlight on your iPad. Or perhaps the nice lady trapped in your Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) gives you a polite warning: “Caution, Obstacle; Caution, Obstacle.”

Or, maybe you just notice the thing outside the window: a large radio tower rising up thousands of feet from the ground, like Jack’s beanstalk but with a blinking red beacon at the top.

Technically speaking, it’s a “guyed tower.” The tallest one in the world is apparently the KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, North Dakota at 2,063 feet AGL. Good thing for that beacon!

Guyed Towers

What you may not think about is that when a beacon stops working, someone has to fix it. These are brave people. Tower climbing has statistically ranked among the most dangerous jobs in America since 1983. It’s a controversial business.

Why is it that floating in an airplane 100, 1,000, or 2,000 feet above the ground (even in an open cockpit) seems perfectly safe to me, yet the mere thought of standing at the top of a 100, 1,000, or 2,000 foot tower that’s attached to the ground is … ah … rather terrifying? I suspect it’s the lack of wings.

Regardless, it’s good to know that if you ever lose your pilot medical certificate–or just want to spend your days doing something more physical than sitting in a cockpit–there’s another job that will give you a similar perspective on the world.

See for yourself:

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3 Responses to “How Many Pilots Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?”

  1. Gareth says:

    What no parachute!?

  2. Matt says:

    As cool and crazy as that looks, I’ll stick with wings!

  3. Kevin Parsons says:

    WOW!! Lots of respect for those guys.

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