Home News Spotlight on Air traffic control: keeping planes high in the sky

Spotlight on Air traffic control: keeping planes high in the sky

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A Marine with air traffic control, looks over the flightline at the air traffic control tower on Marine Corps Air Station New River April 15. Air traffic control maintains the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic.
A Marine with air traffic control, looks over the flightline at the air traffic control tower on Marine Corps Air Station New River April 15. Air traffic control maintains the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic.

Radio chatter bounces back and forth between the tower and the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station New River. The Marines and staff ensure the safety and timeliness of aircrew as they prepare to take off or land at the air station.

Contrary to the common misconceptions of waving flashlights guiding aircraft on the flightline, air traffic control is in the tower keeping aircraft moving safely.

“Air traffic control is in the control of aircraft whether it’s on the ground or in the air and safely, orderly and expeditiously maintaining the flow of traffic,” said Cpl. Frank Trull, an air traffic controller. “Our number one priority is safety and the other two follow after that. It’s people’s lives and property as well.”

Air traffic control is split into the tower and radar room, where all air traffic control Marines hold the responsibility of the lives of pilots and aircrew as well as multi-million dollar aircraft.

The radar room is further extended into three positions: radar data, final controller and arrival controller.

“My job down here in radar is to help separate pilots and guide them safely and hand them off to a final controller who will land the aircraft at the runway,” said Cpl. CameronRhodes, air traffic controller.

With the aid of radar and instruments, the radar room sees the aircraft through electronics and instruments.

“Radar data coordinates information with other entities,” said Rhodes. “We talk with range control about restricted areas during live fire exercises. The final controller does surveillances and ground controlled approaches to guide the aircraft to the runway in bad weather conditions. The arrival controller coordinates Wilmington and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. We separate aircraft and hand them off to other facilities so they can get to their destination.”

The tower positions are similar to the radar room, differing through eyes on the aircraft.

“You have three positions in the tower,” said Rhodes. “You have ground control, who taxis aircraft on the ground to where they need to be. Flight data reads flight plans to aircraft and coordinates other information to other operations around us. Local clears (aircraft) for takeoff and clears them to land and makes sure they have the safe expeditious flow of traffic.”

Working in conjunction, the tower guides the flow of aircraft off the runway and radar takes them after they leave the runway.

“We’re important to the air station because we are in charge of aircraft that are going out with the ground side all the time,” said Rhodes. “They have to do their training too and without us, it wouldn’t be possible to have everyone train at the speed they need to be.”

Story by Cpl. Mark Watola

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