Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

March 10, 2017 at 7:01am

Maintaining a safe and operational airfield

To avoid a runway incursion, Mr. Urouse Williams, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield driving program manager, demonstrates the proper way of contacting the air traffic control tower for clearance to drive on the airfield. Photo credit: Senior Airman Divine Cox

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A runway incursion is considered as any unauthorized presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the safety protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft, according to Airfield Management.

Here at McChord Field, the 62nd Operations Support Squadron airfield management section is the go-to office in the case of an airfield incursion incident at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Airfield Management's primary mission and purpose is to maintain a safe, operating airfield environment and provide flight service support to base and transient aircrew," said Ms. Eileen Rodriguez, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield manager.

According to Rodriguez, runway operations are an integral part of aviation, so it is imperative that everyone be very familiar with the layout and verbiage of their airfield. Successful prevention of runway incursions requires the cooperation of all users including air traffic controllers, pilots, vehicle drivers and pedestrians operating on the airfield.

Pilots, controllers, drivers and pedestrians can all be involved in runway incursions. A contributing factor can be a breakdown in communications on the airfield and often involves some of the following infractions: use of non-standardized phraseology; failure to provide correct read back of an instruction; misunderstanding the controllers instructions; accepting clearance meant for another aircraft or vehicle or blocked transmissions.

According to the airfield management office, it is vital that before you accept the responsibility of driving on an airfield that you know clear and concise communications are the number one thing in preventing runway incursions.

"All runways allowing use of large transport aircraft require federally mandated safety areas called clear zones, surface areas and the controlled movement area," said Mr. Urouse Williams, 62nd Airlift Wing airfield driving program manager. "These areas are established to provide a safe environment for aircraft operations as well as for the protection of people on the ground."

The airfield on McChord is considered a controlled area and entering the airfield requires permission from the installation commander (coordinated through Airfield Management Operations).

"Willful or inadvertent entry violates the airfield security controlled area," said Williams. "However, the most important of the areas mentioned is the controlled movement area. Entering this area, willfully or inadvertently, without specific permission from the air traffic control tower, will lead to a safety incident called a runway incursion."

Williams said that although there are not many safety area violation incidents, they do occur.

One area in particular that draws a lot of attention from airfield management is Perimeter Road.

"Outer Drive (part of Perimeter Road) and the adjoining jogging path around the flightline and through the required safety clear zones established is an area of concern," said Williams. "The fact that the area is not physically divided makes it possible for inadvertent entry. Personnel must not leave the road or jogging path towards the runway. This area is an established security and safety controlled area and any person entering it must have a specific purpose supporting aircraft operation activities, as well as permission."

Another area of concern for airfield management that puts McChord at risk for an airfield incursion is flightline drivers.

"Anyone driving on the airfield must be trained and certified on proper procedures," said Williams. "The Airfield Driving Program is assigned to this office and ensures all base airfield drivers are trained to operate and drive in vicinity of aircraft and within aircraft authorized areas."

Awareness and posted controlled area signs serve as a way to help prevent unintentional entry to established security and safety controlled areas.

"Even one incident has the potential to lead to a catastrophic accident resulting in the loss of many lives as well as the loss of millions of dollars in equipment," said Williams. "Airfield incursions do happen here on McChord and we just want all personnel to be educated about it and just be very aware of their surroundings."

For more information about airfield incursions or should you observe unauthorized personnel or wildlife in controlled areas, contact Airfield Management at 253.982.5611.

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