News: Eyes of Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay always on alert
Story by Lance Cpl. Nathan Knapke
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - Miscommunication or failure to communicate between units on the flight line can be the difference between life and death. To prevent any equipment from damage or malfunction, an elite group of Marines and sailors regularly manages the radar system to keep Marine Corps Air Station Hawaii running on all cylinders.
“Without the radar systems we provide and maintain, the air traffic control would not be able to communicate with the pilots operating the aircraft,” said Lance Cpl. Diego Rincon, a radar work center supervisor with Air Traffic Control Maintenance Division, Marine Corps Air Station, 22 and a native of Elko, Nev. “We insure the equipment is properly aligned and ready for inclement weather and anything thrown our way.”
In the event power goes out, technicians ensure that the radar system continues operating. They have generators on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if there is a power loss.
Technicians maintain not one, but two different channels. Two channels are constantly maintained because if one goes down, another channel is on standby for operation while the downed line is repaired.
“Our mission is to ensure Air Traffic Control stays in contact with the pilots at all times,” said Lance Cpl. Mohamad Hanino, 21, a communications electronics technician with ATC Maintenance Division, Marine Corps Air Station, and a native of Houma, La. “If we aren’t here when problems arise, flight safety would be compromised. Our radar system also has the ability to identify if the aircraft is friend or foe.”
Among the different radar systems, Marine technicians maintain the position approach radar and the digital airport surveillance radar.
The position approach radar monitors the aircraft until it touches down onto the runway. Marines and sailors monitor the frequency to measure strength of the signal that the aircraft uses. The spectrum analyzer of the Air Traffic Information System is used to ensure the safety of the airfield is constantly maintained.
The digital airport surveillance radar, has the power to detect incoming aircraft several miles off the coast of Oahu. Every friendly aircraft sends a signal to the DASR radar. After the signal is received from the DASR radar, it records the type of aircraft, altitude, speed and the pilot. If an unknown aircraft flies into the range of the DASR radar, it will alert the ATC tower, where the proper procedures are initiated to determine who it is and begin proper preventative measures to ensure the safety of everyone.
“We run tests and maintenance on these radar systems constantly,” Digeo said. “These systems have to be up and running smoothly all the time. If we weren’t here to ensure these radars worked properly all the time, not only would aircraft not land safely but also an enemy could threaten our borders without our knowledge. I never forget to realize that my job affects a huge part of MCAS. I take pride in knowing the radar systems I maintain keep everyone safe.”