Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released this story about the record rebuild of the MIA ILS system after a Red Air DC-9-82 (MD-82) veered off the runway and plowed through the important guidance system (the aircraft was not rebuilt):
Rebuilding in Record Time
After a jet veered off the runway at Miami International Airport and destroyed an instrument landing system, FAA technicians, engineers, and incident response experts reacted with repairs in record time.
By C. Troxell, FAA
On June 21, a Red Air MD-82 jet veered off the runway at Miami International Airport when its left landing gear collapsed.
The plane destroyed an instrument landing system glide slope — the part that provides pilots with vertical descent guidance to the runway. The nose of the jet hit the glide slope equipment building head on, taking out the structure, while the right wing took out the antenna tower and the left wing struck electrical equipment that powers the system. Four passengers suffered minor injuries in the incident.
“It just wiped it out completely. I mean, that whole site was flattened,” said Jose Hernandez, the FAA’s Miami Navigation/Communications System Support Center manager. “Fortunately, there was nobody in the building, which, you know, occasionally there could be technicians in there working.”
“It literally destroyed the building into pieces.”
What ensued was a full-blown glide slope reconstruction project, completed start to finish in just 35 days, including a successful FAA flight check to validate the new system.
“I don’t know of a single glide slope facility installation that has been done near as quickly,” said Jim Parrish, the FAA’s Eastern Service Area field incident response manager.
The FAA assessed damage the day after the accident and prepared equipment. Four engineering technicians from the Facility Maintenance Program — Kris Kirvin, Ryan Drager, Sean Alexander and Gerald Reeves — drove in from Atlanta, Ga., and Titusville, Fla., and collaborated on rebuilding the glide slope from scratch, with a lot of help from local engineering technician Jeff Kilgore.
“It’s usually still in one piece when we get there,” Kirvin, the lead technician, said with a smile. “And we usually can reuse parts. We started digging and found there were a lot of parts we couldn’t reuse. We had half the manpower and had to find materials, which isn’t easy in the post-COVID world…It all happened really fast with a skeleton crew.”
Due to the site’s location between two intersecting runways in the middle of the airfield, the FAA employed a smaller crew than usual to facilitate the project in a compact work area. The team worked continuously, during the nights and through the Fourth of July weekend and a heat wave with 100-degree temperatures, to complete the job “without avoiding any safety protocols,” Hernandez said. Hernandez coordinated with the FAA technicians and leveraged his engineering expertise in leading the rebuild project. “We just fast-tracked the process.”
Key to fast-tracking was the FAA redirecting a glide slope equipment shelter that was en route to another location for a non-emergency project. It usually takes four to six months for airports to receive these equipment shelters.
The team also had to rebuild the shelter foundation, electrical rack, antenna tower and more, but was able to reuse the antenna tower foundation.
The team needed a crane to lift and lower the 45-foot tower into place. To minimize the impact to the air traffic operation, the FAA waited until 11 p.m. for both runways to close temporarily.
While incidents like the Red Air accident are uncommon, the FAA is well-prepared to respond to them. “This is what we do,” Bolin said.