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SPORT provides 'eyes' for mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julius Delos Reyes
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The room is dark; the only light comes from computer screens and monitors along with blinking lights on various machines. Seven individuals sit in front of monitors that project green dots and lines. It may appear that this group is playing games in an arcade, but in reality they are playing a crucial role in Edwards' mission.

These people are part of an air traffic controller team with the Radar Control Facility's Space Positioning Optical Radar Tracking -- SPORT.

The dots are accurate representations of aircraft performing test missions in Edwards' air space. The SPORT controllers monitor the movement of the aircraft without actually being in the cockpit.

"We provide the extra pair of 'eyes' for the test pilots performing the test missions, giving traffic calls to them," said Charles Cooper, 412th Operational Support Squadron air traffic control supervisor.

The organization is a Federal Aviation Administration-certified air traffic control facility under the Department of Defense and has the responsibility of providing air traffic control services in restricted air space R2515, Mr. Cooper said.

The R2515, SPORT's area of responsibility, is a restricted air space because of the hazardous test mission the Air Force Flight Test Center performs, he said. When the air space is active, it restricts general aviation and commercial air carriers from entering the air space. The team provides all arrival, departure and overflight services for Edwards.

"SPORT air traffic controllers' contribution to Edwards is through air traffic control services and one-on-one -- one controller working directly with the aircrew member in the cockpit -- range monitoring for aircrew members flying test missions in restricted area 2515 in support of DoD, foreign military services and civilian contract flight operations," said Sammie Coney, SPORT radar control facility manager. "SPORT (air traffic) controllers keep track of aircraft operations from the point the aircraft is airborne until the aircraft recovers and transfers communication to the control tower."

SPORT controllers inform aircrew members of the location, direction of flight and altitude of other aircraft in close proximity, air space boundary notifications and weather information and airport information, Mr. Coney said. They also provide field advisories and navigational aid status, inform aircrews of airspace utilization and establish an aircraft arrival sequence to enhance the overall efficient, effective and safe operations of the air space.

The SPORT radar facility also has an air traffic control display integrated with the Edwards Control Tower so that both SPORT and the control tower can see the air traffic information, said Leonard Jugus, SPORT automation chief.

SPORT controllers communicate with the aircraft using dedicated test mission ground and air radio frequencies, Mr. Cooper said. SPORT assigns an individual controller to each test mission, and each controller is responsible for communicating traffic conflicts and airspace boundaries to their specific test mission.

"The men and women of SPORT have many years of experience as air traffic controllers," Mr. Cooper said. "They are FAA certified, and they are highly trained in their role of test mission support. They are a proud group of Air Force contributors."