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Home : News : News
NEWS | March 15, 2010

Entering closed Perimeter Road gates concerns air traffic controllers, security forces

By Sean Bowlin 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

Base drivers opening or driving around closed Perimeter Road gates in inclement weather are endangering aircraft landing on Randolph Air Force Base's east runway and that is, in fact, illegal on Randolph.

"The east runway is in use during 75 percent of the year," said Gary Thompson, Randolph Air Force Base air traffic manager. "T-38s, T-43s, T-1s and transport aircraft land on it. The Instrument Landing System on it provides fliers with information on course, elevation and guidance and allows aircraft to land in poor weather. It must be protected from interference."

As Mr. Thompson explained further, cars driving on Perimeter Road can obstruct the signals the ILS sends to aircraft wanting to land.

Therefore, he said, the fence gate by the base's east gate and the swinging barricades near the base horse stables are closed by Security Forces during times of poor visibility so cars won't drive close to the ILS and obstruct ILS-radiated signals.

But, Mr. Thompson said, the problem is the closed gates aren't locked.

So, as a result, some drivers are opening gates after they're closed and are driving through them, or driving around them, as in the case of the swing barricade blocking off Perimeter Road near the stables.

This exposes the ILS to obstruction and possible signal compromise, Mr. Thompson explained.

He said although air traffic controllers in the east side operations tower are constantly watching closed Perimeter Road during bad flying weather, six incidents of Perimeter Road gate penetration happened in the last two months.

"Those were in bad weather months," he said. Fortunately, there were no aircraft crashes this year.

Mr. Thompson praised Security Forces for closing the Perimeter Road gates during bad weather, however.

"We call them and tell them when we see somebody out there during gate closures. They do a fantastic job of closing the gates," he said. "When they're closed, they're closed for a really good reason - to protect that signal so aircraft can land safely."

Maj. Frank Hellstern, 902nd Security Forces Squadron commander, said by closing the gates on Perimeter Road, Security Forces just want to ensure that maximum safety happens in low to no visibility conditions, to allow pilots to land their planes with as few distractions as possible.

"When we close the perimeter gates, we are essentially reducing the amount of risk associated with that event. It just makes good sense," he added.

Major Hellstern added it may be an inconvenience to drivers to have to go another route when the Perimeter Road gates are closed.

"But sometimes going the extra mile--no pun intended--will prevent an accident from occurring," he said.