View Full Version : Upgrades, new equipment aid eyes for the skies

07-14-06, 07:17 AM
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan (July 14, 2006) -- Recently, air traffic control Marines here moved into a newly refurbished air traffic control tower and radar rooms.

The $4.7 million refurbishing project began March 2005, and reached completion June 6, said Capt. Richard Owens, ground electronic maintenance officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma air traffic control.

There were several major upgrades in the project, said Owens. One of the most important changes is the enhanced terminal voice switching system. It is a computer system that consolidates all communication channels and frequencies to allow communication between the tower and a radar room.

There are two teams of Marines working to bring an aircraft home safely, said Sgt. Jason Frisch, the supervisor of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma air traffic control tower. The Marines in a radar room manage aircraft at a farther distance. Once the aircraft is close enough to see, the tower takes over. For the management of the aircraft to smoothly change hands, the Marines up in the tower and those down in the radar rooms, need to be in constant communication.

"If our teams can't communicate, the whole system breaks down," said Staff Sgt. Kelli Guy, the maintenance chief for MCAS Futenma air traffic control.

With the new system, instead of having to dial in a frequency or phone number on a number pad, Marines can simply select the section they wish to reach off a computer touch screen. The system automatically connects the Marine to that number or frequency.

For example, if a Marine in a radar room needs to speak to an air traffic controller in the tower, they simply push a button on their ETVSS display screen. The system notifies the Marines in the tower that someone in a radar room is trying to contact them. With the push of a button in the tower, the two Marines can speak to each other.

The air traffic control Marines also received new communication radio equipment and improved radar systems, allowing for more precise aircraft tracking, according to Owens. The new different pieces of equipment are more compatible with each other and easier to maintain.

"The renovations gave us the same equipment the (Federal Aviation Administration) and any civilian flight line use," Owens said. "This not only means that we will have smoother operations here on the flight line, but we have the added bonus of Marines walking away with more applicable skills should they pursue this same type of job in the civilian world."