HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Tyndall air traffic controllers vital to flying mission

During the Airman’s Shadow Program, Col. Derek C. France, 325th Fighter Wing commander, observes Senior Airman Jonathan Hutchinson, 325th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, while he runs a simulation that trains air traffic controller trainees on how to coordinate jets in the air March 29, 2016. The Airman's Shadow program is a 325th FW commander program designed to recognize members of Team Tyndall. The program provides an opportunity for the commander to meet with the Airmen and get a first-hand look at what Tyndall Airmen are doing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody R. Miller/Released)

During the Airman’s Shadow Program, Col. Derek C. France, 325th Fighter Wing commander, observes Senior Airman Jonathan Hutchinson, 325th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller, while he runs a simulation that trains air traffic controller trainees on how to coordinate jets in the air March 29, 2016. The Airman's Shadow program is a 325th FW commander program designed to recognize members of Team Tyndall. The program provides an opportunity for the commander to meet with the Airmen and get a first-hand look at what Tyndall Airmen are doing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody R. Miller/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The 325th Fighter Wing commander accompanied an Airman from the 325th Operations Support Squadron Radar Approach Control as he completed his daily duties March 29.

Colonel Derek France, 325th FW commander, shadowed Senior Airman Jonathan Hutchinson, a 325th OSS RAPCON air traffic controller for a portion of the day as part of the Airman's Shadow program.

The Airman's Shadow program is a 325th FW commander program designed to recognize 325th FW personnel. The program provides an opportunity for the commander to meet with Airmen and get a firsthand look at how Tyndall Airmen accomplish the mission.

Hutchinson was chosen by his leadership for the program due to his exemplary performance in the fulfilment of his duties.

“I am very pleased to have had the privilege of representing the RAPCON to Colonel France,” Hutchinson said. “I believe the visit provided an opportunity for a very informative discourse between controller and pilot, and both Colonel France and I left with a better understanding of the thought processes occurring on the other end of the frequency.”

Hutchinson’s responsibilities include controlling and regulating en-route and terminal air traffic. Initiating and issuing air traffic control clearances, instructions and advisories to ensure the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic operating under instrument and visual flight rules. Airmen in his field also plan, organize, direct, inspect and evaluate ATC activities.

Lt. Col. Andrew Shurtleff, the commander of the 325th OSS, highlighted Hutchinson’s merits as an air traffic controller in his letter of recommendation for Hutchinson. “He became a fully rated air traffic controller in all Tyndall RAPCON positions, supporting 94,557 military and civilian ATC operations in more than 4,500 square miles of airspace. He conducted a review of the RAPCON local area knowledge guide, identifying and correcting 23 critical errors; improving the quality of training for all new RAPCON trainees and laying the foundation for a safer radar environment.”

Hutchinson demonstrated to France the role of south assist in the RAPCON.  The south assist position helps coordinate and communicate between the jets in the air and other facilities on the ground, both military and civilian. The RAPCON is responsible for airspace up to 23,000 feet high and 4,400 feet across.

After the conclusion of the visit, Col. France reflected on what he saw and learned.

“As a pilot, it was great to get to see who was on the other side of the radio when we’re flying,” France said. “When a pilot coordinates with an air traffic controller, we are giving them a lot of trust in making sure that we touch down safely. They do an incredibly important job for the Air Force and are a central part in projecting air combat power.”

Hutchinson gave some advice that he said has worked for him and believed would have a positive effect on most Airmen’s career.

“The best advice I can give to any Airman is to have a sense of pride and personal investment in what you do in the Air Force,” Hutchinson said. “When you see your work as a direct reflection of your character, not only will you strive to be great at what you do, but you will begin to enjoy it. When that happens, success will naturally follow.”