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KFI Back on the Air With Rebuilt Tower

Here are the Pix

(click thumbnail)A view of the KFI tower, standing 684 feet AGL, with its top hat. The Clear Channel station airs at 640 kHz.
(click thumbnail)The KFI transmitter building in La Mirada. The replacement tower can be seen on the left; on the right is visible the 200 foot aux tower, which had been in use at 25 kW since the main was knocked down in 2004.The author is retired chief engineer of KFI.

I well remember Sunday morning Dec. 19, 2004. As I was about to head out the door of my residence to go on my usual Sunday morning bicycle ride, the telephone rang. I decided to answer rather than let it go to the machine.

It was a call from KFI(AM) telling me of the disaster that had occurred a few minutes before. A small airplane had hit near the top of the 755 foot KFI tower. The impact sheared off the top 10 feet of the tower. The force of the impact also caused the tower to collapse. As the tower folded and came pretty much straight down, it destroyed the antenna tuning house close to the tower base. Two people in the plane died.

Even though I had been retired for four years and did not have to deal with this disaster, I certainly felt bad about it and had a keen interest in the reconstruction.

Soon it became apparent that this was not going to involve a simple replacement of the tower. Pilots from nearby Fullerton Airport objected to the tower being rebuilt, arguing it was a hazard to air navigation. KFI is licensed to Los Angeles but the transmitter is located in the nearby City of La Mirada, which is next to Fullerton. The permit process to rebuild the tower was drawn out, with a lot of city council meeting hearings.

(click thumbnail)The KFI tower and destroyed antenna tuning house as it looked after the tower collapsed, having been struck by a small aircraft in 2004.
It was not until early in 2008 that a permit was obtained; it required a compromise on the height of the replacement tower at 685 feet. Thus the replacement KFI tower has a 50 foot diameter top hat to make up for the reduced height.

(click thumbnail)Close-up of the top hat on the replacement tower. It is 50 feet in diameter.
Construction of the replacement tower started in March of this year. When the tower reached the 300 foot level during construction a turnbuckle on an elevated guy point failed, causing the 300 feet of metal to fall to the ground. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt. Of course this delayed construction of the tower further.

By late August the replacement pieces were on site. A redesigned elevated guy point was installed and tower construction commenced. Thirteen days later the new tower with top hat was completed.

The uniform cross-section steel structure, built by Magnum Tower, has a seven-foot face. The new tower has daytime strobe lighting and red nighttime lighting. Ground system repairs and antenna tuning unit installation required a few more days of work.

(click thumbnail)The redesigned elevated guy anchor. This replaces one at which a turnbuckle failed, causing the replacement tower to fall during construction this year. The redesigned elevated anchor has two turnbuckles in parallel.On Sept. 25 at 5:10 p.m., morning show host Bill Handel closed the ceremonial knife switch that put KFI back on full power into its new tower. Sixty-four contest winners and their guests were invited to the party near the base of the new tower, where catered food and refreshments were available. A good time was had by all.

(click thumbnail)New antenna tuning unit and base insulator of the replacement KFI tower.
Tom Cox, senior vice president of engineering for Clear Channel Radio, told RW the project was managed locally by John Paoli and Terry Grieger of the Los Angeles engineering staff. Greg Ashlock, the market president, was actively involved in obtaining zoning.

Ron Rackley of duTreil, Lundin and Rackley did the design for the antenna and ATU. Wayne Davidson of Tower Structures did the structural design of the tower and top hat. Seacomm Erectors put the tower up. The antenna tuning unit was built by Kintronic Labs.

On the regulatory front, work was done by airspace counsel Ed Faberman at Wiley Rein and Gary Allen at Aviation Systems as well as land use counsel Jim Eskilson at Reed Smith.

Cox said the station’s coverage has improved tremendously now that KFI no longer is operating on a very short, heavily top-loaded auxiliary tower at 25 kW.

This story received a sad postscript when John Paoli of the Clear Channel engineering staff passed away unexpectedly in October, a few weeks after completion of the project on which he’d spent so much time.

(click thumbnail)Morning host Bill Handel, closing the ceremonial knife switch, puts KFI on full 50 kW power into the replacement tower.
(click thumbnail)The base of the tower. The insulator to the right side of the base insulator is for a data path for tower lighting data. The tower now has daytime strobe lighting and red light lighting at night.