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Airfield Ops, CE work together to light the way

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable
  • 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

Ranging from white strobes, illuminating yellow and steady red and blue, flightline lighting plays a critical role for aircraft operating at night or during adverse weather.

The men and women of the 407th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron and the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, recently had to come together to implement a solution to ensure safe flying operations.

“We conducted an airfield lighting check about two days into our rotation here and we realized that the approach lighting system was basically out and we had a lot of dim lights that exceeded allowable outages,” said Tech. Sgt. Byron Wilkins, 407th EOSS airfield manager. “So when that happens you have to fix the problem, which is where the emergency airfield lighting system came into play.”

The EALS is a rapidly installed runway lighting system that supports flying operations at night and during periods of reduced visibility.

“Once we realized that the airfield lighting outages were so significant, we talked with 407th ECES electrical shop and they informed us they had EALS on station,” said Capt. Jacob McLallen, 407th EOSS airfield operations flight commander, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Airfield management then organized meetings with multiple organizations across base to include the 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Marine and coalition flying units on base, as well as 407th ECES electrical, pavements and heavy equipment, and structures shops to figure out the best way to implement the system.

“From when we realized that this was our solution and that this is what we were going to do, and we had Air Force Central Command’s approval to do so, it only took 10 days from our first meeting to it now being fully installed and implemented,” McLallen said.

It took two nights for the 407th ECES to install the 10,000 feet long by 150 feet wide lighting system on the runway.

“We wanted to do a more permanent install and a safer install,” said Master Sgt. Rick Wolfe, 407th ECES facilities superintendent, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and native of Sidney, Ohio.

The EALS install added close to 120 lights to the 407th Air Expeditionary Group’s runway.

Part of the more permanent install involved the “dirt boys,” or heavy equipment operators cutting strips out of the runway so they could lay the wires into concrete and seal the cables into the ground.

“The dirt boys are not usually a part of an EALS install, but we went above and beyond,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe noted that this was the first EALS install for a majority of his Airmen, but that this is something that they train for.

“We train for this at exercises like Silver Flag where we practice being at a bare base and putting up the EALS, so it’s sort of similar, but it’s nice to do one for real world operational purposes,” Wolfe said. “It’s really special.”

Once the EALS was fully installed, a fly ability check was performed to make sure the pilots had a good visual assessment of the runway and that the outage problem was rectified.

“Overall, honestly we went from a very unsafe situation and made it much safer for aircrews, host nation, coalition partners, Marines and everyone that drives out on the airfield too, because it’s so much brighter now,” McLallen said.

According to Wolfe, it was nice to see such a total force effort and for it to be executed so beautifully.

“My guys definitely had a huge impact on the mission so we could continue with 24/7 flying and in any kind of weather,” Wolfe said. “It’s kind of our everyday job for us, but I guess outside looking in, it’s like we swooped in and saved the day.”