NEWS | Sept. 24, 2021

Fort Greely, FAA Partnership Keeps Planes Flying, Saves MoneyFort Greely, FAA Partnership Keeps Planes Flying, Saves Money

By R. Slade Walters

FORT GREELY, Alaska – In a partnership between U.S. Army Garrison Alaska and the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA held an Instrument Landing System certification training course from July 14 to Aug. 24, 2021, at a maintenance hangar on Fort Greely’s Allen Army Airfield.

Weather can complicate aviation operations just about everywhere, but interior Alaska’s weather can sometimes make flying especially challenging. Safely landing an aircraft in extremely low visibility conditions is nearly impossible without ILS, which requires specialized equipment and certified technicians.

“We had the ILS, but we didn’t have any certified technicians,” said airfield manager, Darren Benson.

FAA ILS certification training normally requires sending technicians to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City for a total of about three months, which is very costly.

Benson explained that budgeting, travel limitations caused by the global pandemic, and limited seats for Department of Defense personnel made it very difficult for Fort Greely’s airfield technicians to get the required certification training.

“We were kind of fighting to get it,” said Benson.

Art Chase, an FAA field instructor for ILS systems, was familiar with Fort Greely’s training challenges and knew the FAA also had Alaska-based technicians that needed ILS certification training.

Chase convinced the FAA to offer a hands-on ILS certification course, taught in the field in less time.

“When this came along for us, it really saved us,” said Benson.

Chase explained that access to the real-world surroundings, environment and facilities available at Fort Greely made the training especially effective. Chase and Joe Martinek, an FAA ILS instructor based in Charlotte, North Carolina, taught the course.

“The instructors are also technicians … we do flight inspection, we do repairs, we do all of the general maintenance on the systems … we bring something to the training that you can’t get in a training classroom environment,” said Chase.

Two Fort Greely Army airfield technicians, two Alaska-based FAA technicians and one Army technician from U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in South Korea successfully completed the training.

The training allowed the Army and FAA to get airfield technicians certified faster, saved the Army more than $100,000 in travel and temporary lodging costs, and enabled the airfield to continue to support joint military operations during periods of low visibility.

“This is an exceptional example of what successful intergovernmental partnerships and agreements at all levels – borough, state, and federal – can do to save resources,” said Craig Deatrick, director of U.S. Army Installation Management Command – Pacific.

According to both Chase and Benson, both the Army and the FAA feel the course was very successful and plan to continue the partnership in the future.