News: AMC inspects RAPCON, Airfield
Story by Airman 1st Class Sean Crowe
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Air Mobility Command is performing an Airfield Operations Compliance Inspection at a variety of units including the 305th Operations Support Squadron Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) July 8-12, 2013, here.
RAPCON members have to prove during the inspections that their operations coincide with Air Force Instructions, local operating instructions and the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules.
“The main purpose of the inspection is to ensure procedure uniformity across the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Sandners, RAPCON airfield automation manager noncommissioned officer in charge. “Everything has run smoothly on our end so far during the inspection.”
The AOCI is a biennial inspection the Air Force Flight Standards Agency and FAA mandate to maintain standards for units operating any Air Force flightline.
The RAPCON facility is a small building on McGuire tucked behind the 87th Logistics Readiness Squadron warehouse. The cave-like radar room operates 24/7, 365 days a year to direct all military and civilian aircraft traffic to their destinations, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, from the ground to 8,000 feet elevation in the RAPCON’s area of responsibility.
The service members are responsible for handling aircraft traffic for two military and 10 civilian airports in major cities including Philadelphia, Atlantic City, N.J., and New York City.
The RAPCON service members are responsible for the busiest airspace in the nation, said Sanders.
Air traffic controllers must know how to perform many duties including proper communication with aircraft personnel and aircraft collision deterrence. They complete six months of technical training and one year of location-and unit-specific training to operate in RAPCON due to the scope of their jobs.
Controllers who have their seven-level skill qualification can take a year-long course to become qualified as an inspector. They are then sent to bases to inspect airfield operations, examine operating orders and observe on-the-job performance.
Inspectors analyze controllers’ familiarity with local jargon and practices when monitoring the aircraft traffic in their areas of responsibility.
Some controllers are responsible for individual tasks as well, such as safeguarding and handling sensitive or classified information. The newer controllers focus more on proving their job proficiency as opposed to more specialized tasks that come later in a controller’s career.
“This inspection has really put us on our toes,” said Airman 1st Class Kyle Sapp, RAPCON air traffic control journeyman. “We first-term Airmen really have to make sure we are following the book and doing exactly as we were trained. The inspection has even helped make us aware of things we may have forgotten or just did not know.”
The inspectors will inspect airfield management after examining RAPCON to see how the flightline is run. They will inspect items such as the pavement, lights and paint to ensure they meet organizational standards. Airfield management made improvements including concrete slab replacement to prepare for the inspection.
“The inspection encompasses a lot of areas here,” said Sandners. “We’ve prepared for this inspection and I think we are capable of handling anything they throw our way.”