Teamwork Saves the Day for Benton Airpark’s Beacon; Downtown Plan Moves Ahead; and a Blue Moon Awaits

The refurbished Benton Airpark beacon, pictured here in 2015, will be installed this week. Photo by Matt Grigsby.

Sometimes it really does help to know a guy.

After 32 years on the job as a maintenance supervisor at Benton Airpark, Glen Dennis has gotten to know plenty of guys (and gals), and those relationships came in handy when the west Redding airport’s rotating beacon went on the blink.

At issue was the DCB-224 Double Drum Rotating Crouse-Hinds Beacon, a World War II-vintage sentinel that tells Benton-bound pilots that they’re on the right track. The beacon at Benton was manufactured in 1966 and installed in May of 1967. It had a $4,600 price tag.

It ran like clockwork for years, sending out a penetrating green and white light to assist general aviation pilots. At a million-candlepower rating (the equivalent of 7,874 100-watt light bulbs), pilots could see its beam from Sacramento on a clear night. “It’s very similar to what they use on lighthouses,” Redding Airports Director Bryant Garrett said. “Beacons are the lighthouses of the sky.”

When a vandal with a .22-caliber rifle cracked the green lens back in the 1980s, Jeff Wurst was able to reseal it using the same techniques technicians use today to seal a crack in a car’s windshield.

All was well until a couple of weeks ago when the motor that turns the beacon failed. Garrett gave Dennis an ultimatum: If he wasn’t able to get it repaired within a month, it would have to be changed out and a new beacon would be installed. (The Federal Aviation Administration requires all “significant” airports (those eligible for federal funds) have a rotating beacon.)

A new beacon would cost the city about $10,000, Garrett said. Although the newer digital versions meet FAA requirements, they are just not as bright as the World War II-vintage style beacons and, he added, “you lose a piece of nostalgia.”

Since new parts were not available, Dennis turned to Dave Pearson, the owner of Hunt’s Electric Motor Service, who was able to strip down the motor, rewind the wires and replace the brushes. The beacon’s lenses also needed to be resealed, and once again, Wurst, who owns Redding Crackmaster, was able to do the job.

“It’s uncanny that the same guy who repaired the glass before was able to fix it again,” Garrett said. Combined, the two craftsmen charged the city about $800 for their services. Add another thousand in rental costs for the crane that was needed to remove and replace the beacon and Redding’s taxpayers were tagged for less than $2,000.

“It’s a testament to teamwork,” Garrett said. “Glen got it going and found two local vendors who were able to save something old that is actually better and give it another 20-year life span at a huge cost savings. It was a great collective effort to save a vintage museum-worthy aviation artifact.”

Benton Airpark was established in 1926 and was purchased by the city the following year. It was Redding’s only airport until the end of World War II when Redding Municipal Airport, which was established as an Army Air Corps training base, was turned over to the city in 1949.

(Note: The repaired beacon was installed Monday. The accompanying photo was taken by A News Café contributor Matt Grigsby in 2015 and was featured in Photo Café.)

Downtown Plan formalized

An update to the Downtown Redding Specific Plan—a blueprint intended to create “a revitalized Downtown Redding that is attractive, safe, economically vibrant, and respectful of historical and natural resources, and which has a lively mix of pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented shops, housing, workplaces, parks, and civic facilities, inviting to residents and visitors alike”—is the focal point of a special meeting of the Redding Planning Commission set for 4 p.m. today in the council chambers.

City planners are recommending the commission approve the plan update and pass it along to the City Council for final adoption.

Once approved, the plan lays out the regulations, standards and guidelines to help revamp the downtown. Envisioned are several small plazas and parks, pedestrian-friendly streets, a mix of retail and housing and the enhancement of Redding’s newly designated Cultural District. The Downtown Specific Plan was last updated in 2010.

More information here.

Once in a blue moon

Sky watchers are in for a treat early Wednesday morning. Not only will there be a full moon, but since it will be the second full moon in January, it will be a “blue moon.”

But wait! There’s more. Since the full moon will be near its closest approach to Earth, it will be a “super” moon and appear to be about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a run-of-the-mill full moon.

And here’s the best part: there also will be a total lunar eclipse. The sun, Earth and moon will be lined up just right so the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow. Some sunlight will still reach the moon, but the Earth’s atmosphere will filter out most of the blue light so the moon will appear to be red.

It will be the first time in more than 150 years that a super moon and a lunar eclipse coincided. The lunar eclipse will begin at 3:48 a.m. and reach its maximum at 5:30 a.m. If a cloud cover hinders the view, or you don’t feel like standing outside on a chilly night, visit https://youtu.be/8ccbe6NKiuk

Cultural Cruising

Ten venues were on the itinerary Friday night for the annual Cultural Cruise, including the just-opened Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge. Organized by the Shasta County Arts Council, the four-hour cruise invited participants to sample the cultural offerings on display at a variety of galleries, museums and studios.

Visitors to City Hall were treated to the unveiling of “Faces of Redding,” a mixed-media exhibit that celebrates 28 of Redding’s “unsung champions” through photographs and portraits. The project was spearheaded by Kim Niemer, Redding’s director of community services, and artist Theresa Dedmon, who organized fellow artists to form Culture of Celebration.

Cultural Cruise artwork. Photos by Jon Lewis.

“We desire to help shine a light on the people who have a heart for this city and who are truly making positive change. It is time for the good news of this city to be heard,” says the Faces of Redding brochure.

Still Married perform at City Hall. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Featured residents include Redding police officer Bob Brannon, civil rights advocate Tom O’Mara, Shasta College art instructor John Harper and Donna Araiza, head of Wings of Angels. The exhibit will be on display through April.

16-year-old songwriter Kirstin Spence. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Downstairs in the City Hall lobby, cultural cruisers were treated to a songwriter showcase featuring sets by Hal Johnson, Still Married, Kristin Spence and Nick Ciampi. Spence, a Stellar Charter School student who just turned 16, was a pleasant surprise, especially considering she first picked up the guitar last year and hadn’t even sang in front of an audience until performing at an open mic a month ago.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at [email protected].
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13 Responses

  1. Benton Airport Beacon…#Great! Downtown Redding Specific Plan…#Even Greater! Blue Moon Over Redding…#Time to Spoon! Cultural Cruise…#Always A Treat!

  2. Patricia Bay says:

    Jon, I am enjoying your column. It’s fun to read local news done in such an upbeat manner. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for covering the Cultural Cruise, Jon. Kristin Spence was truly remarkable — creative, positive, entertaining and wise beyond her years – looking forward to watching her career.

  4. Beverly Stafford says:

    Jon, you make Monday mornings a day to anticipate. Thanks for the Redding update.

  5. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Love the story about reviving Benton Airport’s beacon, with the exception of the vandalism bit. Whenever I cross the Sacramento River on the Cypress Avenue Bridge, I wince at the bullet holes in the lamps.

  6. Joanne says:

    Great stories today Jon, thank you.

  7. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Those old-technology rotating beacons really are better than the new ones. Spotting a rotating beacon at the destination sure is comforting after a long flight at night dodging thunderstorms.

    I’m grateful to learn about the history of the beacon at Benton. Thanks, Jon.

  8. AJ says:

    Love reading your stuff, Jon . . . . Tanx!!

  9. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    I loved this article Jon. In particular the story of the repaired beacon…when did we stop repairing things? I love that there are skilled masters in our area to take on this challenge. Wow! Thank you.

  10. Thomas Meleck says:

    Just out of curiosity, how could a World War II-vintage sentinel have been created in 1966 and installed in 1967? Didn’t that war end in 1945? I enjoyed you column nonetheless. I vote for seeing the restored beacon at a greater distance than the newer models. It is indeed a welcome sight after a long flight in darkness.

  11. Kim Niemer says:

    Please come see the portraits of 30 community members who contribute in various ways to our community. The Faces of Redding exhibit runs to May. Kudos to Erin for her musical talents. Loved hearing the ode to One Very Good Tree.

  12. Eric Marshall says:

    Jon,

    As always a great story well written and full of real facts! I’ve always looked for the beacon when driving as well as flying. It is so reassuring that it is going to get you back home. There is a special comemerative CAM 8 flight planned this May by 3 open cockpit biplanes following the original airmail route from San Diego to Everett WA. They will stop briefly at Redding to deliver and pick up and will have a temporary post office set up at Benton like they did originally. I hope you will come out and report on this wonderful event Benton Air Center has organized.

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