Eyes in the sky keep planes flying high

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355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control Airmen, watch an HC-130J Combat King II take off at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2019. Air traffic controllers are responsible for separating and directing aircraft movement during all flight line operations. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Eric E. Flores)
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With just under 900 arrivals and departures a month, the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., is the busiest single runway in Air Combat Command.

With the overwhelming number of operations taking place each day on Davis-Monthan, the air traffic control tower serves as the central point of communication for all flying operations. 

The 355th Wing is home to the A-10 Thunderbolt II, HC-130J Combat King II and HH-60G Pave Hawk. With such diversity of airframes traversing the air space over Davis-Monthan, the air traffic controllers have a unique challenge to their daily operations.

“We do a lot of operations with a lot of different airframes and it’s a very unique and exciting challenge for air traffic controllers trying to sequence all those different airframes with different characteristics to that same runway,” said Senior Airman Christian Moran-Rudd, 355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control journeyman.

Senior Airman Christian Moran-Rudd, 355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control journeyman, watches aircraft movement on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Eric E. Flores)

The airspace surrounding Davis-Monthan is also utilized by assets from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the 55th Electronic Combat Group and Tucson International Airport. Ultimately the job of the ATC tower is to ensure that everything conducted on the taxiways, runways and the surrounding airspace is done safely.

“We are essentially safety observers for all the aircraft flying around in the airspace and that involves a lot of quick responses to any situation,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Vander-Heyden, 355th OSS non-commissioned officer in charge of ATC standardization and training. 

“Whenever something happens and you’re the one to catch it, it’s pretty fulfilling knowing that you noticed something that other people didn’t that kept everything safe,” said Moran-Rudd.

Having a competent and agile team in the ATC tower directing rescue and attack assets is essential in being ready for any threat at any time.
 

Tim Becker, 355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control tower watch supervisor, operates an enhanced terminal voice switch at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Eric E. Flores)

 
Senior Airman Brandon Rexford, 355th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control journeyman, operates a traffic count device at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Eric E. Flores)

 
The 355th Wing air traffic control tower stands at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2019. The ATC tower is the central point of communication for all flying operations. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Eric E. Flores)

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