Plane Crash Destroys CBC Television Tower

Plane Crash Destroys CBC Television Tower
WRAL-TV Helps Put Fayetteville’s WKFT-TV Back on the Air

The 1,800 steel tower came down after a small plane snagged one of its guy wires.

The crash & collapse happened around 4:30pm on Thursday, March 14.

On Thursday, March 14, 2002, a Piper single-engine plane ran into the guy wire of one of Capitol Broadcasting Company’s television transmission towers near the Harnett-Lee County line, pulling down the 1,800 foot tower and killing the pilot. Fayetteville television station, WKFT Channel went off the air when the tower fell around 4:30pm.

The Fayetteville station uses its over-the-air signal not only to reach viewers with antenna, but also to deliver its signal to cable companies for delivery via cable. Therefore, the outage affected all WKFT Channel 40 viewers.

WRAL-TV’s transmitter crew and contract engineers for WKFT had Channel 40 back on cable by 7:30pm Tuesday night. The CBC station sent an ENG truck to Fayetteville, took a feed directly from the station and microwaved it back to Raleigh where WRAL-TV send the output of the Microwave through Microspace, CBC’s satellite-broadcasting subsidiary, to the cable companies. This configuration continued until 9:30pm, at which time the RF Uplink satellite truck contracted by WKFT arrived to be put into service to uplink back to Microspace.

By 6:00am the next morning, Time Warner Cable had established a fiber connection directly to WKFT. CBC continued the uplink until noon that day to accommodate the other cable companies who carry WKFT.

Currently, WRAL-TV engineers, WKFT contractors and the Spectrasite tower crew are working to put up a new antenna on another CBC tower. The Spectrasite crew arrived at 6:00am on Saturday but were kept from completing the job on Sunday by inclement weather. The antenna will be in place as soon as weather permits.

WRAL-TV itself was also directly affected by the loss of the tower. Their microwave uplink on the tower was to transmit the live broadcast of President Bush’s visit to Fort Bragg on Friday, March 15. WRAL called back one of its satellite trucks in Greenville covering the NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament Thursday night to put in place for the President’s visit.

Federal investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fatal crash. The pilot, 27-year-old David Dollar of Durham, had been on an airmail route for Wachovia Bank.

CBC lost its 2,000 tower due to an ice storm in December 1989; a nearby TV transmission tower collapsed the same day. WRAL preliminarily got back on the air only 3 hours after the collapse, and later rebuilt a new tower.

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