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Airmen ensure connection to the sky

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amanda Morris
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
When storm clouds roll in, wind speeds increase and rain begins to cover the flightline in a foggy haze, landing aircraft on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean may seem a daunting task.

The inclement weather, however, is not a problem for aviators with help from 36th Operations Support Squadron airfield systems technicians. This group of specially trained Airmen play an important role in ensuring aircraft and aircrew land safely regardless of the environmental conditions.

"On Guam, we have quite a bit of bad weather and if it rains or gets cloudy all of a sudden, the aircraft can't see the flightline from the sky," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Turner, 36th OSS air traffic control and landing systems section chief. "That's when our navigation equipment comes into play to allow them to land safely." 

To support communication between pilots and the air traffic control tower, the technicians ensure reliable performance of landing systems. Instruments like the glideslope, which determines the elevation of the aircraft in relation to the runway, the localizer, which determines the horizontal placement of the aircraft and the TACAN or tactical air navigation, which is a beacon similar to a global positioning system are among the sophisticated equipment the Airmen maintain.

"Operations never stop. Whenever the air traffic controllers need our assistance, we are there to support," Turner said. "If a piece of equipment is reported to be malfunctioning, we test our equipment then reach out to other agencies until we discover what caused the issue."

The technicians guarantee safe landings everyday by performing routine checks on essential equipment no matter how small or insignificant the check may seem at first.

"If we didn't accomplish our checks or maintain equipment correctly, and the weather goes bad, the aircraft can crash," said Senior Airman Patrick Duffie, 36th OSS airfield systems technician. "For example, if the glideslope is not aligned correctly, the landing gear could be ripped out of the plane and the next thing you know the plane is topsy-turvy."

When an issue is discovered on a piece of equipment, the technicians make a diagnosis and may recommend repair or suggest replacing the equipment. After performing repairs, airfield systems specialists conduct performance tests to make sure the system operates properly.

"If any of our equipment goes down, we are out there trying to get it back up to working condition," Turner said.

By ensuring life-saving equipment stays operational, the technicians can keep air traffic controllers connected and aircrews safe throughout their missions. 

"Being in the 36th OSS, working next to the people who actually use our equipment, we can tell they know firsthand about what our job entails," Turner said. "They tell us how much they appreciate us for making sure the equipment is operational and ensuring planes can land safely."