Keeping Watch: Robins Air Traffic Control Tower ensures skies are safe for mission success

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

You’ve got to remain calm, cool and collected when you’re on the clock in the Robins Air Traffic Control Tower.

There’s no room for distraction with the 24-hour, seven days a week operation.

At its core, the air traffic control mission is to ensure the safety of aircraft and aircrews, as well as to provide prompt service to whoever is flying.

“We work with both military and civilian pilots, and there is no difference in how we provide service to either,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Traynor, Watch supervisor for Robins Air Traffic Control Tower, 78th Operations Support Squadron. “Specifically at Robins Tower, we support multiple flying missions to include Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System E-8C aircraft, F-15, C-130, C-17, C-5 and PA28 operations, ranging anywhere from real-world missions to repaired aircraft preparing to reenter the mission.”

Robins air traffic controllers work with the Atlanta Approach Control – Macon sector, Macon Control Tower and multiple on-base agencies to meet the mission.  

Before controllers, as they’re known as in the tower, can jump in the hot seat, they must undergo extensive training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, become familiar with Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration regulations, complete roughly a year to 18 months of on-the-job training, in addition to completing a myriad of other requirements before becoming a qualified air traffic controller.

Master Sgt. Michael Quigley, Tower chief controller in the 78th OSS, said with roughly a 25 to 30 percent washout rate, not everyone who strives to become an air traffic controller makes it in the field.

But, those that make it as air traffic controllers at Robins have a tremendous responsibility, serving a mission that touches multiple U.S. service branches. It’s a role they don’t take lightly.

“We have a Watch supervisor who oversees everything,” Quigley said. “One person talking to the planes in the air and another person is talking to the vehicles and aircraft on the ground. Then, you’ll have someone else coordinating with other agencies on and off base. We talk to Atlanta Approach and local towers as well to maintain a safe and orderly flow of traffic. Maintaining situational awareness and remaining cool, calm and focused is a must.”

For Traynor, it’s the best job ever.

“I never could have pictured myself doing what I do now, but since I’ve been in this line of work, I really can’t picture myself doing anything else,” he said. “To me, this job is incredible because it’s always different. While one can expect to follow the same rules and some situations may re-occur often, there is always something new each and every day, something newly learned, a new situation, etc. I’m very grateful to be a part of the team I’m on and to contribute towards the mission every single day.”