MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Surveying the skies and ensuring our pilots know where they’re headed is an essential part of Minot Air Force Base.
Air traffic controllers watch over our helicopters and B-52h stratofortresses. Whether they’re taking off, landing or in need of assistance, these controllers are active year round.
“Our mission is to get the planes up in the air so they can do their mission, training and whatever they need to do then get them back safely,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Lippolis, 5th Operations Support Squadron non-commissioned officer of training standards.
In order for the pilots to take off they need the correct clearances, taxiing instructions and authorization from the tower to fly.
“Air Traffic Control starts and ends with a point on the ground,” said Lippolis. “We want to ensure the pilots take off and land safely so they can see their families.”
Airman 1st Class Issac Lawshea, 5th Operations Support Squadron air traffic control apprentice, mentioned he’s new to the job and is excited to start learning.
“Air traffic controllers are the surgeons of the sky,” said Lawshea. “There is a lot of studying and bookwork involved, but it’s definitely a fun career choice.”
According to Lippolis air traffic control is a constant training process and they never stop learning.
“I believe you have to have a top personality to do this job,” said Lippolis. “You have to take control, be dynamic, multitask and maintain safety of the flight line and your fellow Airmen.”
There are typically four positions manned in the tower cab.
Flight data coordinates communications with bases.
Ground works the ground traffic and taxiing of aircraft.
Local takes care of the airborne traffic and the departures on the runway.
The watch supervisor oversees all the other positions and ensures the rules and regulations are followed.
“Air traffic controllers are certified annually to revalidate the controller based on the performance while following the rules and regulations,” said Lippolis.
Lippolis says he enjoys his job and the comradery between his and the pilot’s career fields.
“My favorite part about my job is the unspoken bond that controllers have with pilots,” said Lippolis. “They have to trust that we know what we’re doing and vice versa, otherwise someone is going to die.”