ATC Airmen manage Moody's flights

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rachel Coates
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

 A typical morning for air traffic control Airmen includes discussions of runway updates and the weather, all while ensuring precision take-off and landing patterns.

Managing approximately 26,000 operations per year, attention to detail is crucial to safety in the air. Constant attention to monitors, checklists and pilots, keep flights on schedule.

The Airmen working in the control tower of the 23rd Operations Support Squadron need to be mentally ready and expertly trained to handle any circumstances.

“You’ve got to be on you’re A-game and mentally in the right head space to make the calls we have to day-to-day,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell 23rd OSS air traffic control watch supervisor “It might be stressful having to deal with in-flight emergencies, but it’s rewarding and worth it when you get a recovery and good feedback from the pilots. You never know how it’s going to turn out, things can be very unexpected.”

Whether rain or shine, ATC Airmen work to prevent aircraft collisions and other challenges that may arise from the job.

Many challenges can interrupt a flight. For example, a bird can strike an engine at any time or landing gear may malfunction. In scenarios like these, it’s up to the control tower to notify the appropriate authorities.

Mitchell explained that in a previous in-flight emergency he encountered, the landing gear on an aircraft collapsed and the controllers had to jump into action and use an alert phone to call emergency units to come quickly to the site to assess the pilot and aircraft.

So tackling those unforeseen challenges is truly a team effort.

“We can help expedite the movement of emergency personnel,” Mitchell said. “We have to make sure we coordinate with all of the facilities that need to respond to any emergencies, whether it be air field management, the fire department or security forces.”

Training is also imperative to team success. The control tower requires an approximate eight-month period of initial fundamental and detailed training to learn all aspects of the job.

“It breaks down into three sections; ground control, flight data and local control,” said Senior Airman Thomas Blanchard 23d OSS air traffic control trainer. “Once you get in one of those positions, you get a brief from the Airman you’re relieving from duty. You now have responsibility of that position and everything that comes with it. It’s not a typical office situation, it’s a whole tower cab that we have to work as a team in.”

While most emergencies in the control tower are greater than an office job, both Mitchell and Blanchard explained they wouldn’t have it any other way. They both feel the job is rewarding and are proud to be air traffic control Airmen.

“ATC is probably one of the most higher preforming groups on base, with the least amount of visibility because they’re on the opposite side of the flightline,” said Lt. Col. Jordan Hrupek, 23rd OSS commander. “But what they do is the thing that enables the entire wings mission of getting aircraft into the air and bringing them back here safely. Without them we wouldn’t be doing what we do every day.”