Using a helicopter to change a lightbulb

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Detroit flies toward the Fighting Island Channel South Light on the Detroit River Jan. 3, 2011, to pick up two Coast Guardsmen who were dropped off earlier in the day to perform maintenance on the aid to navigation. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Detroit flies toward the Fighting Island Channel South Light on the Detroit River Jan. 3, 2011, to pick up two Coast Guardsmen who were dropped off earlier in the day to perform maintenance on the aid to navigation. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Commercial vessels transiting through the area reported to the Coast Guard that the light was extinguished, prompting the maintenance visit.

Personnel from Aids to Navigation Team Detroit requested the help of the aircrew because ice surrounding the structure made it impossible to bring an ANT Detroit boat alongside. While it’s not unheard of to use Coast Guard aircraft for aids to navigation missions, it’s not a routine operation and requires extreme precision by the aircrew.

ANT Detroit members and their gear had to be lowered down to a 30-foot diameter platform with a 35-foot tall tower rising up from the center, and then they were hoisted back up when their work was complete.

Following work on that aid, the aircrew brought the ANT Detroit personnel to Grassy Island, about one mile north of Fighting Island, to replace an outdated incandescent bulb with a new LED system. This was the first operational confined area landing for Lt. Anthony Falce, a new co-pilot at Air Station Detroit.

ANT Detroit’s close working relationship with Air Station Detroit and both crews’ frequent training programs led to a safe, swift and efficient maintenance trip designed to keep the channel properly marked and boaters out of harm’s way.