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Behind the Lines: Robins Airfield Operations | Community Spirit

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Behind the Lines: Robins Airfield Operations


Robins Air Force Base covers roughly 8,400 acres. 19 million square feet of that is runway pavement.

Every inch gets inspected almost daily by the Robins Airfield Management team.

13WMAZ went Behind the Lines with the people who guide aircraft through secure take-offs and smooth landings.

Blue skies and light winds blanketed the skies over Robins on a recent January day. The weather gave pilots the itch to fly, and the folks in the Air Traffic Control Tower a lot of work to do.

Senior Airman Jose Torres said, "When we come up here and were in position, were ready to work."

Torres said in the Robins tower, work is feast or famine. He said some days as few as two planes leave the tarmac. On a day with great weather, 50 or 60 take flight.

He said. "It definitely requires everybody to be on their A game and catch every little thing."

That also goes for the folks working 94 feet below Torres on the ground.

Every detail matters to Airfield Manager Clyde Byrd. Each time he drives onto the flight line, he checks his tires for debris that could get on the runway and sucked into the engine of multi-million dollar aircraft.

Byrd said, "The safety of that aircraft and the people on the aircraft is paramount."

The airmen and aircraft's security starts on the 12,001 foot long runway. It's a football-field wide.

He said, "To make a loop around this airfield is about 20 miles. We drive that multiple times a day."

He searches for cracks, pavement collapses and security breaches. You name it., Byrd has found it.

Byrd said, "I've come in in the morning. First thing, I get from the tower is there's a coyote on the air field."

Between his staff at the Airfield Operations desk and the traffic controllers in the tower, Byrd says it's a well-oiled machine.

He doesn't use the term "crash" on the airfield. That's a dirty word to him, but Byrd says there's never been "an incident" on his watch.

That's in part because of a simulator at the base of the tower, and Robert Harvey.

Harvey said, "I enjoy training, watching these guys learn and grow."

He has 30 years of air traffic experience to offer rookies, plus technology that creates an exact replica of the Robins runway.

Novices learn the ropes on the ground months before climbing the tower.

Harvey said, "When they do go upstairs, they're already familiar with our runway, our airport, the taxi routes and everything."

The only part they're not used to, when they get ready to the do job, is the climb. The tower is seven stories tall. There's 150 steps to the top.

Torres said, "I'm in good shape, because I work out. Not because of the stairs. Those stairs always kick my butt!"

He says the climb is always worth his effort, not only for the what he's privileged to see soar overhead, but also what he helps guide to a graceful landing below.

The Robins runway was constructed in 1944 and extended in 1955 to accommodate landings for B-52 bombers.

It's the second longest runway in Georgia, beat only by Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. That runway is 389 feet longer than Robins.

Byrd said the Robins tower will be replaced in the future. The new one is slated to be designed in 2017, with construction starting sometime after that.

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