The Townsend discharge mechanism has been explored in a planar microelectronic gas discharge device (MGDD) with different applied voltages U and interelectrode distance d under various pressures in air. The anode and the cathode of the MGDD are formed by a transparent SnO2 covered glass and a GaAs semiconductor, respectively. In the experiments, the discharge is found to be unstable just below the breakdown voltage U-b, whereas the discharge passes through a homogeneous stable Townsend mode beyond the breakdown voltage. The measurements are made by an electrical circuit and a CCD camera by recording the currents and light emission (LE) intensities. The intensity profiles, which are converted from the 3D light emission images along the semiconductor diameter, have been analysed for different system parameters. Different instantaneous conductivity sigma(t) regimes are found below and beyond the Townsend region. These regimes govern the current and spatio-temporal LE stabilities in the plasma system. It has been proven that the stable LE region increases up to 550 Torr as a function of pressure for small d. If the active area of the semiconductor becomes larger and the interlectrode distance d becomes smaller, the stable LE region stays nearly constant with pressure.