A closer look at damaged equipment at TLH

By  | 

By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 16, 2020

The Tallahassee International Airport's localizer was damaged in a crash early Monday morning, when a man allegedly "hopped fences" onto the airfield, and drove a FedEx vehicle into the equipment.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- WCTV is taking a closer look into the fallout from Monday morning's incident at the Tallahassee International Airport, after a man drove a FedEx truck into a key piece of landing equipment called a localizer.

The localizer is part of the Instrument Landing System, which has been in use nationwide since WWII.

There are other landing options without that equipment, but it all depends on the flight crew's experience and the technology of the plane.

"If it's not that good of weather, and you don't have the localizer helping you out, it would be just like if you're traveling and your GPS isn't A working, and you're having to rely on maps and something else that you're not that familiar with," said Paul Nesbitt.

Nesbitt is an Air Traffic Control instructor.

"It's very important in bad weather conditions, when they can't see the runway until it's very close," said Nesbitt.

Nesbitt said the equipment is not required at every airport.

"At most airports, you only have a localizer for one or two of the runways," he said.

The equipment uses a radio beam down the center line of the runway, for landing in low-visibility situation such as foggy weather.

"It is such a precise beam that just a few feet either way is indicated to the pilot," explained Ricky Turner.

Turner is a longtime pilot and former Air Force officer.

He said the although the equipment is mainly for low-visibility weather, Tallahassee's climate makes it vital.

"In the kind of weather that we normally have around here in the evening, you need to be able to get to the low altitude right off the end of the runway like the ILS can do for you."

The equipment was damaged after a person hopped fences to get onto the airfield and hit it with a FedEx truck, raising questions about security.

The airport and TPD have told WCTV they cannot release details for security reasons, but spokesman Officer Kevin Bradshaw said at least ten full-time officers are assigned to and trained for the airport unit.

"It represents a difference in radio traffic, different radio channels and different procedures, obviously the numerous and numerous security protocols they have to go through, and background checks," said Officer Bradshaw.

The officers assigned are not junior officers.

"Usually the lowest one has 15 plus years of experience."

The officers also have an annual re-ceritification.

"A lot of their training is exceptionally specialized, because there really is no other venue for them to apply that knowledge outside of the airport," said Bradshaw.

WCTV also reached out to the TSA about security but the agency declined to comment.

There is no word yet how the person got onto the airfield; TPD and the airport say that remains under investigation.

The FAA sent the following statement to WCTV:

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects to return to service the Instrument Landing System (ILS) for Runway 27 at Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) by the end of January. FAA technicians are making good progress restoring the Localizer, the part of the ILS that provides horizontal guidance for aircraft making precision approaches to the runway. After technicians restore the system, the FAA will conduct a flight inspection to confirm that it is operating accurately."

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.