EASA publishes study on wind turbine impact on aviation safety

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published a study on the impacts of wind turbines on aviation safety. The final report assessed the safety risks posed by wind turbines near aerodromes and air routes, and the effectiveness of the existing mitigations, and proposes regulatory improvements on the detection, lighting and marking of wind turbines.

The study found that in the absence of a clear regulatory framework, the Competent Authorities of each Member State have deployed different solutions. This has resulted in a wide variety among Member States on how wind turbines are lighted and marked.

However, to better mitigate those risks from a European perspective, the report recommends introducing:

  • a safeguarding concept that specifies the process, responsibilities, and criteria for competent authorities and aerodrome operators;
  • a better obstacle data management process and clear requirements on obstacle data; and
  • an improved regulatory framework addressing the risks of wind turbines in terms of protecting the aerodrome surroundings, when wind turbines are placed near the aerodrome.

The study evaluated the current mitigations, e.g. the regulatory provisions on the protection of aerodromes from the effects of wind turbines, and identified that:

  • the main risks are related to ‘general aviation flights’ performed at low altitude and under visual flight rules (VFR);
  • most smaller aerodromes used by general aviation aircraft flying at low altitude under VFR are subject to national safety requirements and are exempted from the scope of the EU aerodrome safety regulations;
  • Member States have implemented different solutions regarding the lighting and marking of wind turbines;
  • the obstacle-data management process, as the basis for various mitigation measures, poses a significant risk; and
  • the cumulative risks caused by wind turbines are not only related to the height of wind turbines, but also to other effects of wind turbines, such as downwind turbulences.

The study, commissioned by EASA, was carried out in 2023 and the final report was published in October 2023.