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375th OSS ATCALS flight ensures aircraft safety for landings, takeoffs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Garcia
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Scott Air Force Base relies heavily on the Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems flight of the 375th Operations Support Squadron to maintain all airfield systems to ensure the safe take-off and landing of incoming and outgoing aircraft.

Originally an asset of the Communications Squadron, the ATCALS flight was reassigned to the OSS in 2014 due to an Air Force-wide mandated reorganization.

At any given moment ATCALS is responsible for maintaining radios, ground-to-air/air-to-ground receivers, localizers, glideslopes, and other aircraft navigation equipment that provides precision landing capabilities during inclement weather. In addition, they maintain continuous communications with the air traffic control tower, the weather units, base operations and command post with aircraft.

Tech Sgt. Jeremy Cole, 375th OSS Airfield Systems NCO in-charge, said, “ATC is our direct line of communication relaying to us what systems are up or down. We rely heavily on them to let us know as soon as a system has failed so we can start trouble shooting.”

Equipment can get damaged by natural causes such as tornados, hurricane force winds, or even large objects striking them. Some of the systems begin to fail over time due to weakened components from constant transmission/reception.

Senior Airman Cody Boswell, 375th OSS air traffic controller said, “It is extremely vital to have a team like we have at ATCALS right now. When something like the Instrument Landing System or Tactical Air Navigation System goes down, it is imperative that it gets back up and running as soon as possible. If the weather drops below the Visual Flight Rule minimums, those landing systems are how planes get in to land at our airport. Having ATCALS there to ensure our landing systems are operational is exceedingly important.”

If equipment isn’t maintained, the safety systems fail to produce the necessary signals and this will directly affect the ability of the aircraft to get on and off the ground safely.

Cody explained, “The job can become difficult when we try to balance deadlines with equipment outages. Our No. 1 priority is to bring the critical mission systems back online, and we drop everything to accomplish that. We get calls in the middle of the night and will sometimes put in an 18-hour work day trouble shooting and repairing a critical system outage.”

ATCALS also coordinates with Air Force Flight Systems Agency and the Regional Maintenance Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., since the ILS is monitored by them. The RMC has a direct feed into the systems and can do remote maintenance via the networked lines provided by ATCALS.

“Over the last few decades, Electronic Technicians have evolved,” said Cole. “Career fields have merged, tech schools have expanded and Ground Radar Maintenance will be merging with Airfield Systems this year. I am proud to say, our career field does it all!”