After an Army helicopter hit a guy wire on Thursday and took it off the air, WFXL Albany is back on a low-power transmitter.
Raycom-owned WFXL Albany, Ga., went back on the air at 10:30 p.m. last night, broadcasting from a backup low-power transmitter from the nearby tower of sister station WALB. The station was knocked off the air Thursday morning when an Army Chinook helicopter from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., on a routine training mission clipped one of the guy wires of the station’s 1,000 ft tower and crashed, killing four soldiers. One soldier survived the accident.
Jenny Collins, general manager of the Fox affiliate on channel 31, reported that the tower is currently structurally unsound and leaning perilously toward WALB’s main tower, less than 150 feet away. “There is a process of relocating a standby antenna and transmitter to that same location for WALB, in the event that something happens with our current tower.”
The station’s engineers won’t be able to complete their assessment of the damage until the military finishes its investigation into the cause of the crash. “It looks like a rotor from the helicopter may have hit the actual tower and it definitely clipped one of the guy wires,” said Collins. “We don’t know if the aircraft was in trouble and it was coming down when it hit the tower, or if it hit the tower because it was flying too low.”
Until they can get an engineering report, it’s unclear whether the tower can be saved, the extent of the damage to the antenna or how long it will be until the station is back up and running at full power.
“The good news is that Raycom mobilized very quickly. The accident happened at about 8 a.m. on Thursday morning and by 3:30 p.m. we already had crews on the ground to assess the situation and put a backup plan in place,” Collins said. “It was pretty incredible that from Thursday morning to 10:30 last night [Sunday], they were able to get us back on the air.”
The station’s cable and satellite feeds were not affected by the accident, so cable and satellite subscribers wouldn’t have experienced any service interruption. The Albany market (DMA 147) has about 150,000 TV households.
“To be honest, we didn’t have one phone call from a viewer, so there’s probably a not a lot of people out there these days that have an antenna,” said Collins. “But for those few people who did receive our signal over the air, they should be able to get it again.”