Dover welcomes Air Force's newest landing tech
By Airman 1st Class Faith Schaefer, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 28, 2020
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Airmen from the 436th Operations Support Squadron Radar, Airfield and Weather Systems (RAWS) shop recently installed an upgraded Instrument Landing System (ILS), one of five of its kind in the Air Force.
The ILS is an internationally standardized system that ensures aircraft landing on the runway can do so with precision and efficiency. The system has two major functions: providing horizontal readings from the localizer and vertical readings from the glide slope.
“The localizer provides horizontal positional information to the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Pesantes, 436th OSS RAWS noncommissioned officer in charge. “It becomes even more important when the aircraft is flying in weather that makes seeing a little bit more difficult so it sends signals to the aircraft and the aircraft can use that data to stay horizontally in line with the [runway], making sure it lands safely.”
Dover AFB requires two ILS to support its intersecting runways. Approximately a year and a half ago, the localizer of one ILS began malfunctioning in response to fluctuating temperatures and, as a result, produced unreliable horizontal readings. RAWS managed the malfunction with continuous maintenance, but a long-term solution was not available at that time due to a lack of existing technology.
“Maintaining $11M [worth] of air traffic control and landings systems at Dover is our job, but we literally had to assign a team specifically to ILS repairs,” said Pesantes. “Many times, having a technician physically here during all hours, night or day, was necessary, and the RAWS team never once failed to execute.”
While Pesantes and his team continued to repair the ILS malfunction, the Air Force Flight Standards Agency (AFFSA) worked with the commercial aviation sector for a long-term solution and newer technology.
“This upgrade has been a year-long project across several agencies to figure out why some localizers have been having stability problems,” said Gary Sharp, AFFSA equipment specialist. “Once we understood what was going on, a solution was found to bring us where we are today. A seven- day project to completely overhaul the localizer antenna array and replace the identified components with newer [technology].”
The newly installed localizer is one of five of its kind in the Air Force and the only one of its kind in Air Mobility Command. Dover is serving as a test base for this new localizer with upgraded components.
“After one year of performance monitoring, we expect to see the problems eliminated,” said Sharp. “I am personally very confident. After the one year evaluation period, this upgrade should become the standard for Air Force localizers.”
With the help of several other 436th Airlift Wing agencies and thanks to personal resolve, the RAWS team installed the new localizer in a matter of seven days.
“Our Airmen never pass up an opportunity to accelerate change, especially when it means protecting lives and increasing reliability,” said Col. Michael Peeler, 436th Operations Group commander. “Our newly upgraded ILS does just that. It brings modern, effective technology to assigned and transient aircrew, supporting 20% of the nation’s strategic airlift. We’re excited to test this competitive technology for Air Mobility Command and we remain hopeful it will prove effective and be implemented across the Air Force.”
The 436th OSS RAWS is leading the way in more ways than one. The team won three AMC annual awards to include Lima Site 85 (Team) of the Year. Pesantes attributes the success of his team to the quality of their character and willingness to tackle hard jobs.