Structure houses history, FAAPerched atop a rolling grassy knoll in southeast Dickinson sits a mystical white structure, representational of a bowling pin atop a block.
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
Perched atop a rolling grassy knoll in southeast Dickinson sits a mystical white structure, representational of a bowling pin atop a block. A strong presence on the outskirts of town, some suggest it’s a weather station, others an old church.
Richard Meyer, landowner at the buildings location, recalls the history of the geometric structure.
“I was a child when it was put up,” Meyer said. “I don’t remember exactly what year it was.”
The Federal Aviation Administration leases the land from the Meyer family and has been for quite some time.
“They (FAA) originally leased it from my dad,” said Meyer. “It’s probably been 60 years. It’s been a long time.”
The building’s purpose is not weather-watching or worship, but rather aerial navigation. Agnes Blachut, intern at Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, said the station is a VORTAC, a VHF Omni-directional Range and Tactical Aircraft Control.
“It emits signals that allow aircraft to use it as a way of navigating,” Blachut said. “When aircraft fly they fly from one to another. They are basically aerial roadways.”
While VOR stations are dedicated strictly to commercial flights, those stations dubbed “VORTAC” take on a bit more responsibility.
“The one you (Dickinson) have not only deals with commercial aircraft, but also helps with navigation with military aircraft as well,” Anthony Molinaro, FAA spokesperson for the Great Lakes region said.
Molinaro said the grassy knoll is a choice location.
“It is coordination between the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense to sort of find those locations that work for both,” Molinaro said. He attributed the choice in location to the military base in Grand Forks.
While the station is unmanned, technicians frequently visit the location for repairs and maintenance of the equipment, said Molinaro.
Meyers said the building has undergone remodeling over the years.