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Airfield operations manage flightline for airborne mission

Vandenberg's airspace is managed by contracted air traffic controllers like Jessica Mayer, 30th Operation Support Squadron, who corresponds with approaching aircraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base, March 27.    (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Trey Lewis)

Vandenberg's airspace is managed by contracted air traffic controllers like Jessica Mayer, 30th Operation Support Squadron, who corresponds with approaching aircraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base, March 27. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Trey Lewis)

Although there are no fixed-wing aircraft assigned to Vandenberg, a wide variety of military and civilian planes have used the flightline for Air Force missions.  The 30th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations manage incoming and departing aircraft as well as maintain the aircraft and the U.S. Air Force's third longest flightline.

Although there are no fixed-wing aircraft assigned to Vandenberg, a wide variety of military and civilian planes have used the flightline for Air Force missions. The 30th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations manage incoming and departing aircraft as well as maintain the aircraft and the U.S. Air Force's third longest flightline.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 30th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations flight does more than work to ensure aircraft have a safe landing; they make sure aircraft have a safe place to land on Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Airfield Operations flight maintains the flightline while caring for the planes that land here. Vandenberg has no fixed wing aircraft assigned to it, but there are aircraft that frequent the pavement runway throughout the year.

"We have about 15 to 20 planes land here a month," said Master Sgt. Bruce Gunther.

One of which is the Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft, which uses Vandenberg's flightline to conduct its launch mission. It is one of many.

A wide range of aircraft that have visited Vandenberg's flightline include the P-3 Orion, C-130 Hercules, F-22A Raptor, F-18 Hornet and the V-22 Osprey, a joint service, multi-mission, military tilt rotor aircraft.

In order for these kinds of aircraft to land on Vandenberg's flightline, the 30th OSS Airfield Operations flight has to keep the flightline in line--no small task because this is no small flightline. More than 10,000 feet was added to the original 5,500-foot flightline in the 1970's to support space shuttle landings. Today, the airfield operations flight needs to ensure the three miles of concrete runway, the third longest in the U.S. Air Force, is ready for planes to take off and land.

Just as they need to keep the ground a safe place to land, they keep the air safe too. A bird that gets sucked up into a jet engine can cause thousands of dollars in damage, endangering the plane and crew. The airfield operations flight takes care of the birds with a shotgun, but not in a traditional way. They point the gun in the air and fire, and the sound scares the birds away.

"The birds can't stand the noise," Sergeant Gunther said.

In addition to maintaining the airfield and airspace, the flight helps air traffic controllers with navigation as well as aircraft parking plans and weather diversion plans, Sergeant Gunther said.

Those who work on the flightline witness a mission that not many at Vandenberg get to see. A highlight for some was seeing a pair of the world's most formidable aircraft.

"Six or seven years ago, a B-2 bomber flew in, right next to an F-16 Fighting Falcon," Sergeant Gunther said. "That was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

These aircraft and more will continue to receive Vandenberg's support because of the 30th OSS Airfield Operations flight's dedication to ensure Vandenberg's flightline operations through their airfield and airspace maintenance.