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NEWS | March 25, 2013

Preparing for takeoff with airfield management

By Senior Airman Kayla Newman 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the Air Force, some of the most prominent and widely-known jobs involve pilots. Many people don't realize when those pilots land their aircraft, one of the first places they report to is airfield management, also referred to as "Base Ops."

The 1st Operations Support Squadron airfield management at Langley Air Force Base, Va., is in charge of overseeing the base's airfield. Managing the Langley airfield is an encompassing job that requires detailed planning and communication to ensure operations run smoothly.

The front counter at Base Ops, known as the airfield management operations counter, is where everything relating to the airfield happens. Pilots submit their flight plans and check in at the counter once they've landed, airfield updates are provided, notices to Airmen are logged and bird activity is monitored.

"In order to take care of the airfield, we must know everything that is going on," explained Senior Airman Matthew Morrow, 1st OSS airfield management shift lead. "We also have to make sure everything is secure and safe for planes to take off and land."

One way airfield management ensures security of the runway is through being the focal point for any construction that takes place in or around the airfield, said Staff Sgt. Aundrea Jones, noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management operations. Airfield management must maintain safe measures so aircraft can avoid striking construction equipment or personnel in the immediate vicinities of the runways, taxiways and parking ramps.

Additionally, in order for planes to land safely, Airfield management conducts nightly lighting inspections to ensure there are no discrepancies with navigational lighting aids, said Jones.

Airfield management must also conduct hourly inspections, which must include checking the pavement for foreign objects and debris, cracks in the pavement or any hazardous runway conditions resulting from adverse weather, said Jones.

Parts of the hourly checks also include looking for birds and wildlife, as they are hazards to the jets.

"The United States Department of Agriculture is in charge of keeping the wildlife away from the airfield at Langley," explained Staff Sgt. Antonio Tyson, 1st OSS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training. "For the wildlife that USDA is unable to get, airfield management does have the authority to scare them away."

Airfield management has the authority to use specific tactics to scare off the wildlife, such as bird aircraft striking guns, which are designed to make loud noises that help birds relocate away from the airfield.

Birds aren't the only potentially harmful wildlife found on the runway. Airfield management has handled frogs, turtles, coyotes and even fish. In an additional effort to control the wildlife around the airfield, the surrounding grass is maintained at a height of 7-14 inches to prevent any wildlife from forming a habitat.

While performing these critical checks and procedures are vital in accomplishing their mission, the 12-18 Service members assigned to airfield management must also maintain an open line of communication. Without proper communication, a number of things could go wrong with the jets, pilots or the airfield as a whole.

"Communication is the biggest thing," said Tyson. "If you are comfortable with working and talking to the people you are around every day, you are going to have better communication in letting them know what is going on in the airfield, as well as in the shop."

Airfield management is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. With such a critical job, airfield management personnel must pay close attention to the security of the airfield and runway through extensive planning and communication, ensuring Langley pilots can land home safely.