Units undergo ATSEP, SEPWO

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- As the most-inspected wing in the Air Force, the 52nd Fighter Wing again underwent an evaluation Oct. 19-23 - this time the overall air traffic system was under the microscope. 

Various units on base, such as weather, the civil engineer squadron, safety, airspace management and a number of others, were evaluated on their support of the flight operations for the wing during the Air Traffic System Evaluation Program and Standardization Evaluation Program Weather Operations. 

"The ATSEP is the over-arching inspection, which includes both the air traffic system and weather operations," said Capt. Ryan Guess, 52nd Operations Support Squadron. "The ATSEP evaluates the ability of the air traffic system to meet standards and operational requirements of military and civil users by analyzing from an operational viewpoint the total air traffic system for safety, compatibility and adequacy. 

"Additionally, it evaluates all pertinent areas that are a part of, or affect, the air traffic system for compliance with regulatory guidance," he added. 

It's been two years since the wing was last evaluated in this manner. 

"Spangdahlem received a 97 percent compliance rating out of 813 checklist items inspected during the 2007 ATSEP," Captain Guess said. 

Since then, there have been a number of updates, renovations and overhauls of programs and facilities to better provide for air operations. 

The flightline driving program was revitalized, and a $7 million air traffic control tower was constructed. A non-radar transition program was also developed and the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard system installed. 

"The construction of the tower greatly improved a tower controller's ability to monitor the runway and taxiways, and Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems transferred a critical piece of navigational aid monitoring equipment to the new tower, allowing consolidation of critical air traffic control manning," Captain Guess said. "The non-radar transition program allows the Ground Controlled Approach facility to provide safe transition and holding of aircraft during a radar failure until German Air Traffic Control can take radar control of our aircraft. 

"And the new 12-cannon BASH system, which is remotely controlled by the tower and fires propane cannon to disperse birds from the airfield, also has an integral predator call system, which mimics the calls of falcons and other birds of prey to scare away troublesome birds." 

The 52nd OSS, 52nd Communications Squadron, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron and 52nd FW Safety Office have self-inspected their portion of the more than 800-item checklist to ensure compliance with the safety standards each unit is required to uphold. Plus, more than 15 agreements between base agencies, host-nation air traffic control agencies, Bitburg and Luxembourg airports, and German airbase Buechel are continually reviewed and updated, he said. 

With the inclusion of the new systems, moving of equipment, continual focus on the mission and intense preparation, confidence is high that this year's inspection results will be even better than in 2007. 

"We believe we are poised to do better than the last inspection, higher than a 97 percent compliance rate (during this inspection that will) evaluate the quality of service and support (each unit) provides to the air traffic system users and compliance with standards of air traffic control, airfield management and air traffic control and landing systems," Captain Guess said. 

The results of the evaluation are scheduled to be announced the morning of Oct. 23.