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28146: Hermantin(news)Pirate radio signals interfere with pilots (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Pirate radio signals interfere with pilots

By Ken Kaye
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 21, 2006

Pilots hoping to hear "cleared to land" at Miami International Airport instead have been greeted by hip-hop and Haitian music over their radios in the past month.

The tunes might be catchy, but the broadcasts are illegal, interrupting pilot-controller communications.

"It's a nightmare," Jim Marinitti, president of the Miami Tower branch of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said Monday.

The music apparently is airing from two pirate radio stations, one in Opa-Locka and the other in Lauderdale Lakes. Authorities have been unable to find the operators and shut them down.

The problem is the broadcasts sporadically bleed over to two aviation frequencies, one for the Miami control tower and the other for departure control. Although controllers cannot hear the music, pilots can be, and have been, blocked from clearly hearing instructions.

So far there have been no close calls at the bustling Miami airport, which handles more than 1,100 daily flights. But an accident could be waiting, Marinitti said.

"It's sporadic, but it always seems to happen at the most inopportune time, as soon as traffic starts to pick up," he said.

A radio station that calls itself Da Streetz, at 107.1 FM, has been identified as one source of the music, said Paige Patterson-Hughes, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

State agents think it had been broadcasting from an Opa-Locka warehouse after they confiscated an antenna, computers, a sound-mixing board and other equipment there on March 3. However, authorities have yet to find the transmitter or identify the people who operate the station.

On Monday, that station played Creole melodies, and Creole-speaking disc jockeys took caller requests.

The Federal Aviation Administration identified a second illegal radio site in Lauderdale Lakes, said agency spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen. That information was turned over to the Federal Communications Commission, she said.

Federal laws prohibit anyone from transmitting over the radio waves without a license. Florida also put an anti-piracy law into effect a year ago that forbids anyone from interfering with a public or commercial station.

Last July, the state shut down a pirate station in Fort Lauderdale and arrested two men. The same month, it shut down a second station in Jacksonville. In all, FDLE has investigated six cases of radio interference, Patterson-Hughes said.

Those caught violating the state law face third-degree felony charges, up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Bergen said in the past decade, the FAA has investigated at least 30 instances in South Florida alone where radio stations interfered with pilot communications.

"Obviously, this is an issue we're addressing," she said. "But it's not uncommon for this thing to occur."

Staff Writer Thomas Monnay contributed to this report.

Ken Kaye can be reached at kkaye@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7911.

Copyright  2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel