Airfield Management- the other side of flight

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Whitney
  • Nellis Public Affairs
Many people associate pilots as the Airmen who keep aircraft flying, but without airfield managers, they wouldn't have anywhere to take-off or land safely.

"This job deals with anything and everything about the airfield and the safety of flight- from removing pebbles and parking aircraft to issuing paperwork and overseeing construction- we do it all," said Tech. Sgt. Heather Tegard, 57th Operations Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of airfield management.

One of the primary functions of airfield management is maintenance of the Nellis' Airfield, the busiest in Air Combat Command.

Nellis Airfield Management works hand-in-hand with the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron to ensure any and all discrepancies are promptly corrected. A current airfield project underway, which is scheduled to be completed June 1, is to replace 96,000 square feet of concrete on taxiway foxtrot.

Pavement integrity is imperative to the safety of aircraft movement. If pavement is too weak or is cracking, it could severely damage an aircraft, said Capt. Eric Schmidt, 57th Operations Support Squadron deputy Airfield Operations Flight commander, imagine a what a pothole can do to a $40,000 dollar sports car, now imagine what it could do to a $16 million aircraft.

"Airfield construction projects such as these, although disruptive to base flying, are absolutely critical to the long-term sustainment of the airfield," said Maj. Michael Grogan, 57th OSS airfield operations commander. "The fact that we are still able to launch and recover jets with ongoing airfield construction is a testament to the outstanding working relationship between the support and flying communities at Nellis."

Airfield management recently completed another important project, upgrading the barrier arresting kit from the BAK-9 to the BAK-12 system. The BAK system is used to stop aircraft that are experiencing an in-flight emergency such as hydraulic failure or loss of power. The BAK-12 is similar to the system used on U.S. Naval aircraft carriers.
"The BAK-12 is an upgrade to the BAK-9. After the [BAK-12] is engaged, it takes only a matter of minutes before the system is operational again. But the BAK-9 on the other hand, actually had to be repaired after each use," said Airman 1st Class Joshua Salsbury, 57th OSS airfield management coordinator.

Airfield management also receives and inputs all flight plans for aircraft departing Nellis into the Federal Aviation Administration system, which is how Nellis pilots' flight plans get into the air traffic control system. In the past year, airfield maintenance logged more than 15,000 flight plans.

Issuing Notices to Airmen, called NOTAMs, is another important aspect of this career field. These NOTAMS contain information that notifies flight crews of airfield hazards, such as taxiway or runway closures and constructions on airfields where they are traveling to or from.

"We also issue flight information publications to aircrews. FLIPs are similar to NOTAMS and are how flight crews get the information for different airfields and routes of flight that they need- essentially it's their map of the sky," said Airman Salsbury.

Airfield management is also charged with planning parking locations for transient aircraft when they arrive at Nellis. There are certain requirements set to determine the distance aircraft can be parked from each other, said Sergeant Tegard.

Last year, more than 1,000 aircraft that Nellis received were distinguished visitor flights. "We are the first impression the Nellis DV's see, so it is important that we keep our facility and our personal appearance immaculate," said Airman 1st Class Sean Moffit, airfield management coordinator, 57th OSS.

Airfield management is also responsible for keeping the flightline free of foreign object debris. FOD can be any number of things including rocks, bags, garbage or objects dropped from aircraft. The smallest piece of FOD can be responsible for destroying an entire aircraft engine, said Sergeant Tegard.

"Although this job isn't a high visibility one," said Airman Salsbury. "It is a great feeling when you're performing an airfield check and an aircraft taxis by, you look at the pilot, and he is giving you the thumbs up because he knows everything that you do to make his mission possible."