Foul weather won’t keep planes from Ramstein

Capt. Erin Dorrance
Kaiserslautern American

On Christmas Day, a C-17 Globemaster departed Iraq carrying 14 patients requiring medical care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Due to a low-ceiling visibility, the C-17 requested the first-ever CAT II instrument landing system approach to a Ramstein runway, just three days after the system had been declared operational.***image1***

The plane carrying one urgent, six priority and seven routine patients, landed safely and patients received medical care shortly after touching down because the new system allows aircraft and crews to land in very low-visibility conditions. 

“This is a phenomenal capability for Ramstein, the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” said Lt. Col. Marty Winkler, 86th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. “Ramstein is the first airfield in the DOD to implement a CAT III ILS, making Ramstein the most capable airfield in the DOD.” 

Ramstein’s busy airfield had approximately 29,600 arrivals and departures in 2006 and annually averages 35 days requiring CAT II or III operations. 

The system sends signals to incoming aircraft that allow the crews to land in very low-visibility conditions, he said. Pilots flying appropriately equipped aircraft can land with a 100-foot ceiling and 370 meters of visibility using CAT II procedures; those with CAT III equipped aircraft can now land at Ramstein with as little as 200 meters of visibility and a ceiling that starts at ground level. 

The CAT II and III ILS technology is installed on many military and commercial planes, including C-17s, C-20s, C-37s and C-40s, said Colonel Winkler.

The installation of the CAT II and III ILS is part of the Rhein-Main Transition Program, a capability that once was filled by Frankfurt International Airport’s system when Rhein-Main Air Base was operational. The system was completed in the summer of 2005 and tested for more than a year to validate its accuracy before being officially brought on line Dec. 22, said Senior Master Sgt. Donald Colbert, one of the main planners for implementing the new ILS.

As Ramstein personnel implemented use of the new ILS, the base experienced several changes, said Capt. Lloyd Dropps, 86th OSS Airfield Operations flight commander. One of the most noticeable changes affected drivers on the flightline during CAT II and III ILS operations. Everyone with a flightline driver’s license has been informed of the change and systems are in place to ensure safety on the runway, ramps and taxiways. 

“This is a wonderful moment for Ramstein, but it has been a huge team effort,” said Colonel Winkler.  “Innumerable people at the wing level, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the host nation have helped make this happen.”