Air traffic controllers put to test during hurricane evacuation

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) --

Barksdale Air Force Base welcomed over 70 aircraft, and more than 180 personnel, Sept. 8-10, 2017, as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Bases along the East Coast in the hurricane’s projected path took proactive measures by evacuating their aircraft to Barksdale AFB, staying ahead of the storm.

Airmen from the 2nd Operations Support Squadron air traffic control flight coordinated more than 93 aircraft arriving to Barksdale AFB, a 200 percent increase from normal day-to-day operations.

“No matter how many planes come through our radar, we put out the same amount of effort and teamwork,” said Senior Airman Eric Mason, 2nd OSS air traffic controller. “During the hurricane evacuation, we were performing our job just like any other day, just with more stress.”

While Air Force bases along Hurricane Irma’s path got stormed on, Barksdale AFB offered a safe harbor from the storm.

“It is an honor to look out of the tower’s cab and see all our guests here on the flight line,” Mason said. “Barksdale (AFB) is a safe haven for them.”

For Mason, it was just another day on the job, for others it was a time to push through and succeed.

Focused on her radio, Senior Airman Jordan Futch, 2nd OSS air traffic controller, effortlessly coordinated with approaching aircraft.

"I know my job is crucial to an everyday mission,” said Futch. “I help make sure our pilots come home safely to their families. Dealing with the hurricane evacuation, I can see just how imperative it is to make sure these planes have someone to talk to on the ground.”

Teamwork is crucial when dealing with pressure during big missions, such as the hurricane evacuation.

“We all work together really well. Our team dynamic helps get the mission done,” Futch said.

With the help of Barksdale AFB’s air traffic controllers, the hurricane evacuation was deemed a success. Air traffic controllers provided the strength and teamwork it takes to navigate military aircraft down to safety, before sending the planes and crews back home.