Eyes in the sky

Minot AFB air traffic controllers responsible for safety of aircraft

Submitted Photo A B-52H Stratofortress lands at Minot Air Force Base, Aug. 21, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers Before a B-52 can land, the pilot must be in contact with the Air Traffic Control Tower to ensure the flight line is clear and safe to land.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – When you want to get a better view of a situation, they say to take a step back.

Not every pilot can hop out of their plane to see their surroundings. That’s one reason the air traffic control tower exists.

A bird’s eye view of the flight line ensures aircraft entering and leaving Minot Air Force Base are coordinated and safe. With just under 10,000 operations a year, the tower is the authority for anything moving around the flight line and up to 5.6 nautical miles above and around the base.

“We’re responsible for the safety of aircraft,” said Airman 1st Class Kyren Kincer, 5th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control journeyman. “We issue traffic calls, we watch the ones on the ground as well as helicopters and civilian aircraft that come into our area.”

Communication plays a major role in ensuring aircraft are flying safely. In order to fulfill this role, the tower has three positions filled by airmen: flight data, ground control and local control.

Submitted Photo Airman 1st Class Kyren Kincer, 5th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control journeyman, looks at the sky through binoculars at Minot Air Force Base, Aug. 21, 2018, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers. Airmen are certified as air traffic controllers after four months of technical training followed by a year of on-the-job training at their assigned duty station.

“Flight data ensures other facilities located around base are coordinated and organized according with our schedules,” said Senior Airman Latishia Reinert, 5th OSS air traffic control journeyman. “Ground control talks to the aircraft on the ground, allows engine starts, ensures clearances and taxis them. If any vehicle wants to get on the flight line, they’ll talk to them. Local control concerns everything else on the runway and in the air.”

Air traffic control airmen initially receive four months of technical training to have a foundation in radar and tower operations. After arriving at a base, they continue to become certified through on-the-job training.

“Since every base is so different, we don’t have [a career development course],” said Reinert. “We’ll go through front-load, which is our basic knowledge of the job, then get to know our base over the course of a year until we’re certified.”

Each airman going through training is paired with a certified airman to ensure proper knowledge is applied in any circumstance that can arise on the job.

“We’re there to prevent [accidents] from happening,” said Reinert. “We ensure we give them everything they need since we’re their eyes in the sky.”

Submitted Photo Airman 1st Class Isaiah Harper-Parson, 5th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, coordinates with a flight line airman at Minot Air Force Base, Aug. 21, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers. Communication plays a major role in ensuring aircraft are flying safely.

Although it was a long and hard process to become certified, Kincer is proud to be here at Minot Air Force Base.

“It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get my certification,” said Kincer. “I feel as though this is an important job, which makes me proud to have it. I enjoy my job very much.”

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