WRAL-FM became the largest population reaching radio station in North Carolina in February of this year. With the installation of the station’s new antenna, their population reach now exceeds 2.8 million!
WRAL-FM Chief Engineer Will Patnaud, who oversaw the project, shared the process behind the project:
Back in 2009, when TV transitioned to digital-only, the WRAL-TV analog antenna atop the 2000-foot tower near Garner (known as the Auburn Tower) went dark for good. It was at that time that I began to lobby for WRAL-FM to one day take that newly-vacated, coveted top position.
Until recently, WRAL-FM had occupied the 3rd position down from the top, just below Sinclair’s WRDC-HD and just above Curtis’ WQDR-FM. Our antenna, which was installed in 1990 following the infamous December 1989 tower collapse, was nearing its end-of-life and becoming increasingly expensive to maintain.
Fortunately, the perfect opportunity presented itself this past summer with the DTV repack. WRAL and WRDC planned to finally remove their dormant antennas atop the tower and replace them with a 120-foot pole. With the help of WRAL-TV Director of Engineering & Operations Pete Sockett and WRAL-TV Transmitter Supervisor Matt Brandes, we were able to coordinate with the tower crew to install a brand new ERI 6-bay 101.5MHz antenna on the pole, thereby maximizing WRAL-FM’s coverage to its full class maximum.
This move now makes WRAL-FM North Carolina’s largest FM station both by total coverage area and NC population served!
Tower King II worked with Erickson Skycrane to remove the old antenna ands and install the new WRAL-FM antenna. All the helicopter picks and lifts happened on February 23, 2021, as the pole, on which the new FM antenna would be attached was lifted into place. The antenna elements were installed in the week following the antenna pole installation. After that, the new 4-inch transmission line was lifted and installed.
Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Dan Lane & WRAL-FM’s Will Patnaud for these Capcom photos.