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Airport Archives: Maintenance at the Airport is Complex

Maintenance at the airport is complex
City Editor, Brainerd Daily Dispatch

It takes more than a long, dry strip of pavement to provide for a smooth landing these days. Any airport worth its salt is equipped with the most up-to-date safety equipment it can get its hands on.

Taking care of that equipment at the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Airport is primarily the job of one man—Earl D. Johnson of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As the electrical technician at the Brainerd airport, Johnson maintains repair logs and sees to it that certified inspections of safety equipment are carried out once a month. Other FAA personnel come to the airport every three months to check on how everything is operating.

“All of these things are made to operate by themselves,” he said.

Every 2,000 hours the runway lights are replaced. They are equipped with varying frequencies for daytime (using a high frequency) and night time (which requires a lower frequency).

“Primarily, the name of the game is preventive maintenance, to keep something from failing,” Johnson said.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Johnson was a radar technician in the service. He came to Brainerd as the FAA’s electrical technician in 1970 when the lighting system and navigational aids for pilots were quite limited, compared to today.

The safety improvements at Brainerd have been substantial and he expects them to continue in the future.

“We’re going to have one of the best-equipped airports,” he said. “My job up here is to maintain the equipment.”

The technical acronyms which are used by FAA personnel to describe the equipment which helps pilots land are confusing to the layman. Following is a list of some of those terms and a brief explanation on what their function is at the airport:

VASI – A Visual Approach Slope Indicator designed to help pilots as they approach the runway. Pilots who are too high will see a white light. Those who are too low will see a red light and combination means that the approach is correct.

VORTAC – Very High Frequency Omnirange Tactical Air Navigation. This is located near Garrison and is designed to help pilots who may have lost their way.

REIL – Runway End Indicator Light or strobe lights which identify the end of the runway.

LOCALIZER – An instrument which radiates a signal to help align the pilot properly. The pilot reads a needle on a panel of instruments in the cockpit in order to find out whether he is aligned correctly.

RCO – A Remote Control Outlet which allows the pilot to make audio contact through telephone lines with a flight service center in Alexandria.

MALSER – Medium Approach Alignment Indicator Light which is controlled by the pilot and used at night or during bad weather.

RAIL – Runway Alignment Indicator Light which creates an effect with strobe lights that is sometimes referred to as a “running rabbit” along the runway.



Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport
16384 Airport Rd, Suite 5 · Brainerd, MN 56401-5852 · 218-825-2166