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    Shore vs Sea: The Challenge of Landing Aircraft at Sea



    Courtesy Story

    USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)

    Eight months ago, Air Traffic Controller 2nd class Brandyn Maddux, from Palm Coast, Florida, was on shore duty stationed at Naval Air Station Norfolk Chamber’s Field as part of the air traffic control team. Currently, Maddux is assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) operations department, helping guide aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean for fixed wing flight operations for the first time in over 700 days.

    Since this is Maddux’s first sea-going command, he’s now experienced first-hand the difference between shore-based air traffic control and air traffic control from the massive moving runway that is an aircraft carrier.

    “It’s definitely something completely different on shore duty, where you have fixed runways, and nothing moves,” said Maddux. “But when you get here, you could have a [pilot] on final approach, and you have to change your heading every sweep of the radar just because the ship could be in a turn, or we could get a weird gust of wind.”

    Just like Maddux, the challenge and change of air traffic control at sea is also appreciated by other air traffic controllers.

    “I love the challenge you are presented every day when it comes to dealing with aircraft,” said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Bernard Burns Jr., from Columbia, South Carolina. “For example, maintaining separation, the aspect of vectoring guys around, getting them established up and around in the air, or getting ready to descend and land here on the carrier.”

    Both Maddux and Burns work in Ford’s carrier air traffic control center, which is crucial for all flight operations and provides guidance and direction for pilots while out at sea.

    Maddux believes even the work atmosphere is different from sea duty to shore.

    “For me it was kind of a culture shock; you get here and it’s so much more than air traffic control on the ship,” said Maddux. “Between deck qualifications, damage control and more responsibilities outside your workspace, you’ve got to keep up with so much more than talking to airplanes.”

    Burns said he prefers sea duty compared to shore duty because there is balance and routine.

    “I love the sea duty aspect,” said Burns. “Once you get underway, you get into a set schedule. You wake up, have breakfast, clean, and then you get into the cyclic operations, flight ops, and once we get certified, we can get [low visibility] operations going, land everyone, go workout, and go to sleep.”

    Maddux said there is a crucial change in air space between shore to sea and that air space can change at any moment.

    “With the ship constantly moving, there’s air space restrictions and regulations.
    You may start the event and you’ll be in airspace where we’re good to go,” said Maddux. “But, when you get to the middle or end of an event and you may get to the edge of an airspace and it’s hot, meaning some other entity is using that airspace, and we can no longer get into it.”

    “You don’t run into problems like that on shore duty, and you have days and days before a restriction is going to pop-up near your airspace or in your airspace to plan for things like that, but out here your moving and it could change just like that,” said Maddux, as he snaps his fingers.

    As part of Ford’s air traffic control team, Maddux and Burns have been integral to Ford’s current successful flight deck operations.

    “To me, my job is extremely important because we have someone’s life in our hands,” said Burns.

    Gerald R. Ford is a first-in-class aircraft carrier and the first new aircraft carrier designed in more than 40 years. Ford is currently underway conducting testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

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    Date Taken: 01.21.2020
    Date Posted: 01.25.2020 14:05
    Story ID: 360386
    Location: US

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