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139th News

Missouri ATC Airmen control airspace for Greatest Little Air Show

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Michael Crane
  • 139th Airlift Wing

Airmen from the 241st Air Traffic Control Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard, provided air traffic control operations for the Greatest Little Air Show hosted by the Wingnuts Flying Circus in Tarkio, Missouri, July 9, 2022.

The Gould Peterson Municipal Airport in Tarkio is a small airport, so the 241st brought their own tower. The AN/MSN-7 Mobile Air Traffic Control Tower allows air traffic controllers to control the skies from any airfield. Part of their support equipment includes a generator and 5-ton truck.

“We generally support…because the amount of [air] traffic is too small for that airport,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathon Redd, NCOIC of radar, airfield and weather systems for the 241st ATCS. “There's so much traffic that without air traffic control being there, it's not safe.”

Although controllers spend the majority of their time talking with civilian pilots, one military aircraft stood out. The U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team was the lead act for the air show.

“Your decision making has to be a little faster,” said Lewis about communicating with fighter jets. “F-16s move pretty quick. Sometimes they might want to do overhead maneuvers, so you have to be prepared…where you're going to place them amongst other aircraft in the air space.”

Controllers conducted 368 aircraft operations, which is defined as an aircraft arrival or departure.

“That was one of our lowest…normally it’s closer to 1,000,” said Master Sgt. Brian Lewis, air traffic controller assigned to the 241st who also said their last show was in 2019.

Because it’s a mobile control tower that means it’s also a temporary control tower.

“You have the same requirements but at a temporary location. Your procedures have to be set with the [Federal Aviation Administration] just as if it was a fixed base,” said Lewis. “A lot of work goes into the preparation.”

The 139th Communications Flight also supported the event by providing internet and phone communications for the tower, said Redd.

“For us, it's a good team-building experience,” said Lewis. “We have to set everything up…out there in the heat. Everybody is working hard. We're executing our mission all compacted into one week.”