Incirlik Air Base, Turkey --
“Ready for departure, runway zero-five, holding short.”
“Octane five-one heavy, runway zero-five, wind calm, cleared for take-off.”
The short and direct phraseology that pilots and air traffic controllers use is a unique language that is a small portion of an ATC’s responsibilities.
“The purpose (of air traffic control) is to separate aircraft and ensure safety alerts,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Glover, 39th Operations Support Squadron ATC controller. “We are the guiding force for pilots. We ensure they get to their destination safely and efficiently. We are here to make them feel comfortable and feel safe.”
Clearing pilots for take-off is just one of the jobs that 39th OSS ATC Airmen take on during their shift.
“As tower controllers, we control the aircraft within a five mile radius of the airport both in the air and on the ground,” said Glover. “We have three positions in the tower including the watch supervisor who ensures everything is safe and expeditious. The positions are divided to not put too much work on one controller.”
The different facets of the 39th OSS play a role in ensuring aircraft are able to safely navigate the air space around Incirlik Air Base. Weather and ATC work hand-in-hand with each other to paint the picture of what is happening in the air and then relay that information to the pilots.
“Weather and ATC have something called a cooperative weather watch,” said Master Sgt. Robert Thomas, 39th OSS flight chief of weather operations. “When the tower sees visibility that is lower than 6,000 meters according to their visibility chart finder, they relay that to us and we will add that to our observations. That gives us a clear view of what’s seen on the ground and in the tower so we have different perspectives on visibility. That provides us both situational awareness of what’s going on so we can work together and the pilots are able to take-off and land safely.”
Glover said ATC’s are able to handle four to five aircraft at a time depending on the controller’s abilities and situational awareness. Here in Turkey, the amount of United States aircraft that come through the airport is no more than two at any given time, which optimizes their ability to accomplish the mission.
“I personally love it, it’s a lot of fun,” Glover said. “I really enjoy this job and I’m sure all the controllers would agree that it’s the best job in the Air Force. It definitely teaches you quick decision making and keeps you on your toes because you have to react to unorthodox situations at times.”
ATC Airmen provide essential information to pilots that allow them to safely take-off and land not only at Incirlik but also at their next destination. Their function has been and continues to be a key part of generating air power in support of NATO and United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa missions.
“Tower, Octane five-one heavy, following traffic short final.”
“Octane five-one heavy, runway zero-five, cleared to land.”