Ramstein’s air traffic system rates excellent

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

  Ramstein Air Base is home to the 86th Airlift Wing
with C-130, C-21, C-20, C-37 and C-40 aircraft assigned. It also handles
a variety of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO transient aircraft.

Ramstein has taken over the majority of air transport mission from Rhein-Main
Air Base, which closed in October. To assume the increase in air traffic,
Ramstein launched a comprehensive airfield construction project, valued
at $420 million, which has resulted in the addition of 4.5 million square
feet of concrete.

The 86th Operations Support Squadron oversaw the completion of the Ramp
1 extension, runway construction project, the Ramp 5 extension project
and the new Hot Cargo Pad construction project.

As members of the 86th Operations Support Squadron look back on 2005, they recall a year where the tempo never waned – a year when it faced its biggest challenges, and when it would be most scrutinized.

But in a written report, released in November, the flight was called, “highly knowledgeable and dedicated.” The Ramstein Air Traffic System was deemed as “providing excellent, safe and expeditious support to the 86th Airlift Wing and the surrounding flying community.” In the two years since its last review, the 86th OSS was able to correct a long list of deficiencies and earn an excellent review.

“It’s just going to get better as all the craziness of construction dies down,” said Lt. Bill Cosens, 86th OSS Air Field Operations flight system officer.
In 2005, the flight controlled roughly 38,000 flight operations safely in and out of the Ramstein. It worked and trained while more than 25 airfield construction projects were going on all around them. And, this year, Ramstein started taking over the majority of air transport from Rhein-Main Air Base, an estimated 11 to 12 percent increase in air traffic.

With all the changes – new ramps and runway, new instrument landing equipment and new training procedures – the flight faced its greatest degree of difficulty, said Senior Master Sgt. Guy Rader, air field manager. And it was exactly when 12 evaluators descended on the flight, set up camp and poured through every aspect of how the flight does business. It was the bi-annual air traffic system evaluation where evaluators inspected for safety, quality and adequacy of the air traffic system that supports Ramstein flying operations.
“It’s not normal for a base to go through such a huge change in mission and have the two events (the evaluation and opening of new runway) coincide,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Ryan, tower chief. “It was a big challenge for us.”
This year, there was a new flight commander and nearly an entire staff changeover.

“It was almost as if we started from ground zero,” Lieutenant Cosens said.
But the facility chiefs rallied, Lieutenant Cosens said. They began an extensive review and matched their policy and procedure to the required standard.
“It’s a very in-depth process. We have to take what the Air Force says are the standards and apply them to this specific airfield.” Lieutenant Cosens said.
Adding to the challenge was the planning and opening of a new runway – the first Air Force Category 3 runway, which allows pilots to land in zero visibility. Captain Lloyd Dropps, 86th OSS Airfield Operations flight commander, said the flight worked closely with other organizations, including the 435th and 735th Civil Engineering Squadrons.

“The key was working with outside agencies and making them feel the urgency that we were feeling,” Captain Dropps said. “There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”

One such piece of the puzzle includes fitting a number of diverse flights into one cohesive squadron, Captain Dropps said. The weather flight is the only other flight within the OSS that was inspected, and impressed on all accounts.
In addition to the installation of new weather equipment, new ramps and new instrument landing equipment required a complete overhaul of training manuals and policies, maps and flight charts.

“The one word I keep coming back to is, “wow.” ” Captain Dropps said. “We had construction of the new runway, construction of a new hot cargo pad and demolition of the old one, extension of two parking ramps and relocation and installation of air traffic control and landing equipment – wow.”

Now, the flight is looking toward 2006. If all goes as planned, they will oversee the resurfacing of the northern runway.

“There is no time to relax,” said Tech. Sgt. Kevin McGarry, NCO in charge of standardization and evaluation. “There are constant changes. We’re in preparation mode for the next inspection. We want to leave a world class airfield for our successors.”