If you’re driving toward Redwood Falls at night, odds are the first sign you’re getting close is the rotating white and green light at the airport.
You can be as old as your mid-50s and have that memory — the same light has been there the whole time, since the late 1950s.
Well, maybe not exactly there there.
“I think they moved it when the new terminal was built,” airport manager David Fuhr said last week. “It used to be where the new terminal is now.”
Okay, they moved it 50 feet to the side.
Anyway, the airport light was first installed by the Federal Aviation Administration when Redwood Falls had a flight station with several full-time flight directors in the terminal.
On a clear night, the Redwood airport’s rotating light is visible up to 25 miles.
“When I was growing up on the farm by Seaforth, I could see the airport beam,” Fuhr said. “Now, because of the ‘high-rise’ buildings in Redwood, I can’t see it any more.”
Two fresnel lenses project the beam, one clear, one green.
“That’s an identifier this is a civilian airport,” Fuhr said. “If it were a military airport, there would be one green, then two white flashes.”
At the time, the rotating light was on manual control. Now it is all automated, coming on when the evening gets dark enough.
The beam is deliberately aimed out, level with the ground, rather than up in the air where it could blind pilots.
“It’s to help people find the airport. In the town of Crystal, near the Twin Cities, there are lots of dark spots because of all the lakes,” said Fuhr. “The rotating beacon shows pilots which dark spot has the airport.”
The bulbs are provided to Fuhr by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which also maintains the gear boxes and electronics.
Fuhr then hires electricians with climbing gear to actually go up the tower and change the bulb.
In the dozen or so years he’s been airport manager, Fuhr has only had to change the bulb once.
“They last a long, long time,” he said. “The bulbs are about this big (indicates an object about the size of a medium Thermos bottle).”
Changing a bulb carries problems for people on the ground.
“The last time we changed the bulb, it lit up all the houses near here for awhile,” Fuhr said. “A homeowner came over and said, ‘Dave, it lights up my living room!’”
Page 2 of 2 - Fuhr checked with an FAA official, who basically just shrugged and said, “Yeah, the new bulbs will do that for the first month.”