Flight safety first

by Airman 1st Class Amber Bressler
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

***image1***Members from two regional flying organizations, Luftsportverband Rheinland-Pfalz and AeroClub Saar, recently met with the 86th Airlift Wing Flight Safety Office to exchange safety information regarding U.S. Air Force aircraft and German civilian aircraft operating in the airspace around Ramstein Air Base.

“This meeting continues years of cooperation between the 86th Airlift Wing Safety Office and the local flying clubs,” said Maj. David Durkin, assistant chief of safety, 86th AW Safety Office. “I would like to thank the members of Luftsportverband Rheinland-Pfalz and AeroClub Saar for their continued engagement with us on these critical safety matters.”

The wing safety office has a Mid-Air Collision Avoidance program to minimize the risk of mid-air collisions between the U.S. Air Force and other military and civilian aircraft. Each spring and summer, representatives of the safety office attend glider functions to distribute MACA pamphlets to aviators. These pamphlets, written in German, address flight safety around Ramstein and show the typical military traffic flow in and out of Ramstein.

Most of the larger U.S. Air Force aircraft have a transponder which makes them visible to air traffic control and other aircraft. Since gliders are smaller and may not have a transponder, they might be difficult to detect. This topic was discussed in the recent meeting and the glider pilots will be informed that it is very important for them to communicate through radio to the ATC.

***image2***“The best way to avoid a mid-air collision is to have all aircraft contact the ground controlled approach,” Major Durkin said. If all aircraft establish a two-way radio communication before entering GCA airspace, the GCA can separate them from other aircraft and issue traffic advisories.

“Aircraft that typically enter our airspace are in a critical phase of flight as aircrews configure their aircraft to land,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Minkler, 86th Operations Support Squadron. “The ability to issue traffic advisories is essential to increasing situational awareness of all the pilots involved and helps ensure a safe transition for glider aircraft.”

The safety awareness campaign of the regional flying organizations and the wing safety office has been very successful and is expected to continue for years to come, said Rainer Schröer, Luftsportverband Rheinland-Pfalz Air Space Regulations officer.

“Although there has not been a mid-air collision between a U.S. Air Force aircraft and any of the regional flying clubs, we must guard against becoming complacent and continue to work together to ensure a safe flying environment,” he said.