by Senior Airman Keenan Berry
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
3/16/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- While
the B-2 Spirit soars through the skies, the 509th Operations Squadron
Airfield Management team scans the ground ensuring it taxis, takes off
and lands safely. Supervising the airfields is a full-time job, but the
airfield management team is always up to the challenge.
Pilots can perform their tasks with their minds at ease knowing airfield
management has done their part. The airfield management crew files
flight plans and posts notices to Airmen (NOTAM) for any discrepancies
or limitations on the airfields.
Pilots are notified by the NOTAM site of the conditions of the runway
prior to boarding their aircraft. They know the proper speed limitations
for their aircraft while inbound, out bound and taxiing.
"Whenever sheets of ice result from freezing rain or snow, we will use
the runway condition reading system to tell us how slick the airfield
pavement is," said Tech Sgt. John Leach, 509th Operations Support
Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management. "This is important
because we do not want an aircraft operating on slick pavement, chancing
any damage or hindrance to the mission. We are looking for numbers that
let the aircraft commander know what kind of breaking action they need
to do. If we have a low number on ice, they will taxi slower so they can
stop without hitting anything."
Along with ensuring runway conditions are serviceable, airfield
management scans the skies and runways for wildlife activity to ensure
they do not interfere with the mission.
Another potential threat to aircraft are bird strikes. Bird strikes are
caused when aircraft make contact with large flocks of birds which can
result in severe damage.
"With our bird and wildlife aircraft strike hazard (BASH) program, we
keep an eye out for any wildlife that trespasses onto the airfield,"
said Airman 1st Class Cody Nelson, 509th OSS airfield management
operations coordinator. "If there are any birds posing a potential
flight threat, we manage that by the use of pyro pistols and BASH
cannons to ward them off. We use the pyro pistol 150 feet out from where
the birds are and fire a pyrotechnic in the air to scare them off."
Airfield management keeps a log of all wildlife spotted on the airfield.
They also work with the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron to ensure the
grass is maintained between 7-14 inches to prevent birds from nesting
and feeding in the area.
"We inspect the airfields daily for factors, such as grass heights and
ponding (resulting from rain), that will attract birds or other
wildlife," Leach said. "Once we find these attractants, we report them
to the CES for mitigation. We work with the United States Department of
Agriculture to find new ways from other bases for bird mitigation. For
instance, polyvinyl chloride piping or spikes have been put in place
throughout hangars where bird nesting occurs."
Airfield management also inspects the airfields for spalls, which are
cracks in the ground containing foreign object debris (FOD) capable of
causing significant damage. Spalls are caused by erosion, aircraft and
"We work hand-in- hand with the CES to gather FOD off the airfield to
avoid damage to the aircraft," Nelson said. "It's important to clear the
areas of FOD to prevent aircraft from ingesting gravel or rocks into
the engine, causing any malfunctions."
It's a full-time job trying to maintain the airfields, but with a
steadfast and dedicated attitude, the airfield management team gets the
"I enjoy day-to-day operations, meetings and taking care of my Airmen,"
said Leach. "These factors are key to the mission because at the end of
the day, our main responsibility is ensuring the airfields are safe for
the pilots to perform their duties."