Editor's Note: This article was originally published June 12, 1958, and was republished as part of an historical issue on the Chadron Airport in honor of the Nebraska State Fly-In.
This week the Civil Aeronautics Administration is celebrating its 20th anniversary. An integral part of this nation-wide network which controls all air traffic is the Air Traffic Communications Station at the Chadron Municipal Airport.
Not too many persons in this area are familiar with the Chadron CAA station, as its work has little direct connection with the everyday life of Chadron. However, it is of vital importance to the many transient aircraft passing this way who use the station’s facilities, just as the highway motorist uses highway traffic signs to keep him on the right path.
The Chadron station, housed in rooms on the north side of the hangar at the municipal airport, is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with seven full time employees stationed here to keep it in operation.
In the communications section are Avery Sewell, in charge of the station, A.L. Heidebrecht, Darrell R. Sherman, Vitale A. Cashon and Marvin K. Goodwin. In the electronic maintenance section are Charles P. Hugunin and Roger Voss.
The five men in the communications section keep the station in operation 24 hours a day, dividing three eight-hour shifts. The station constantly monitors seven receiving radio channel sand 10 different transmitting channels so that it remains in constant touch with all aircraft within range of the station. For the light, civilian aircraft, the station’s range is about 25 miles, while the heavy commercial planes and military aircraft can be heard as much as 100 miles or more away. The station here also controls the radio range station located 18 miles southwest of the airport, which is “the beam” followed by aircraft in instrument flights on the civil airway from Denver to Rapid City and Minneapolis.
Once very hour the Chadron station takes readings on the local weather, which is put on the teletype circuit connecting all stations in this area. This weather information includes cloud conditions, ceiling, visibility, wind direction and velocity, temperature, dew point and barometric pressure. Each hour similar reports from all 40 stations in this area are placed on the teletype weather circuit, which gives a complete report of weather conditions for the area covering Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas and Colorado.
Also during each hour, reports come in on the circuit about weather conditions from other areas in the nation, so that at any time the Chadron station can furnish weather conditions within the past hour at any point in the United States.
A second teletype circuit in the office keeps a constant record of planes flying in this vicinity on instrument flight plans. Planes planning a flight from one point to another on instrument flights are required to file flight plans before taking off, listing destination, expected time of arrival and other information. Enroute on their flights, they are required to check in at communication stations along the way so that a record of their progress is available at all times. Should a plane fail to report in on schedule, it is possible to begin an immediate search in a localized area for the missing plane.
The Chadron station receives an average of 20 to 25 calls each 24 hours from planes passing through here, seeking instrument flight clearances, weather and airport information and other general information. Planes planning to land at Chadron can obtain information on wind and weather from the station here also.
To maintain the vast network of communications for traffic in the skyways requires a complicated array of radio transmission and receiving equipment, housed in a separate room at the airport hangar. Keeping those radios in working order is the task of the electronics maintenance men. Among other equipment is a standby generator, for use in supplying electric power should a power failure occur from the regular source.
The Chadron CAA station is one of 350 stations located strategically over the U.S. and in Alaska and Hawaii for the safety and convenience of all air travel, civilian and military. The work performed by the Chadron station is but a part of one phase of the services offered by the CAA, that of air traffic control.
These air traffic communication stations, along with Air Route Traffic Control Centers and the control towers located at all major airports, control all air traffic along 106,000 miles of Civil Airways and to all busy airports.
In addition to traffic control, the CAA also maintains the radio navigational aids which guide planes along the civil airways. It also keeps a close watch on all planes through regular periodic inspections for flight safety and is in charge of licensing and re-licensing of pilots to safeguard the safety of the aircraft and the pilots who fly them.
Through the combined efforts of the various services provided by the CAA, air travel has become one of the safest forms of travel today, if not the safest. In 1938, when the CAA came into being, there were more airline accidents and passenger fatalities in the 480 million passenger miles flown than there were in the 25.5 billion passenger miles flown in the year just ended.