Airfield Management, ensuring mission success

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid

Senior Airman Derrick Beleski, 56th Operation Support Squadron airfield management operations supervisor, inspects a runway light, Oct. 24, 2018, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Airfield management is responsible for making sure the flightline is in good working order at all times to ensure the success of the base’s mission.

The Airmen of the 56th Operation Support Squadron airfield management shop ensure Luke Air Force Base’s mission is carried out successfully.

Airfield management Airmen are on the flightline all day, every day, allowing aircraft to taxi, take off and land without mishap.

“On the flightline what we’re looking for is chipped or cracked pavement that will damage the aircraft,” said Senior Airman Derrick Beleski, 56th OSS airfield management operations supervisor. “That’s the biggest thing we’re concerned with, damage to the aircraft.”

Pavement isn’t the only thing on the unit’s mind. Airfield management handles an array of different details including, paint reflectivity, signal light outages, keeping birds and small animals off of the runway and handling the flight information publications.

“We check the flightline every two hours just to make sure there’s nothing wrong with the flightline, and picking up foreign object debris,” said Airman 1st Class Sophia Thomas, 56th OSS airfield management journeyman. “If the [air] control tower were to see something on the flightline, for example a frog or a plastic bag, they call us and send us out there to make sure the item is removed from the flightline.”

With Luke AFB being in a hot climate, the flightline faces a unique set of challenges. When the heat from Arizona’s blistering sun rapidly cools, it causes the pavement to crack and give space for the rubber under the concrete to spread.

Senior Airman Derrick Beleski, 56th Operation Support Squadron airfield management operations supervisor, looks over a safety cable system, Oct. 24, 2018, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The cable system is in place to safely stop an aircraft on the runway if there is an emergency by “hooking” and slowing it down.

“Hot to cold season, that’s when we see a lot of pavement damage concerning the rubber coming up,” said Beleski. “This causes the unit to spend more time on the runway watching for rubber concerns.”

Not only does airfield management ensure a safe runway, they come in prior to the start of flying operations to file paperwork, making sure there are proper flight plans for the pilots to rely on. Flight plans allow the pilots to know what the proposed objective of their flight is and the mission is ready.

“Without this job we wouldn’t be able to be a fighter wing base,” said Thomas. “We’re the ones who make sure the flightline is useable and we ensure the pilots get their flight plans at the beginning of the day. This allows us to know how many, who, and when pilots will be going up.”

Airfield management and their effective team work are a critical part of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots.