SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
The position of Air Traffic Controller is notably one of the most stressful jobs in the Air Force, and Airmen with this title must maintain a keen eye to prevent mishaps on the flightline. On May 19, U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Erron Sayas, 52nd Operational Support Squadron air traffic control watch supervisor, prevented a disaster on the flightline that could have caused the loss of a 202-million-dollar aircraft or worse, several lives.
While on an opening shift alone in the control tower, Sayas was informed of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft scheduled to land at Spangdahlem later that morning.
After performing a visual scan of the flightline, Sayas noticed a sweeper vehicle on the runway.
“Prior to utilizing any runway, whether it is clearing an aircraft to land or takeoff, it is engrained in our minds throughout all of our training to always scan up and down the runway for any abnormalities,” said Sayas. “In this situation I got the notification of the aircraft in advance and once I received that notification I immediately scanned the runway to ensure it was clear.”
Utilizing his training and quick thinking, Sayas reached out to contact the vehicle on the flightline.
“I was unable to make direct contact with the driver of the sweeper vehicle,” said Sayas. “I had to contact Airfield Management and have them drive out onto the runway in order to escort the vehicle out of the area.”
When airfield management arrived to the flightline, it was discovered that the driver of the sweeper vehicle was on the wrong radio frequency.
Due to Sayas’ actions which prevented a major mishap and possibly injury, loss of life, and loss of equipment, he is being nominated for the Chainbreaker Award.
The Chainbreaker Award draws its name from the concept that in any mishap, there exists a chain of events leading to the accident. These links in the chain can be equipment failures, communication issues, human error, and so on. The Chainbreaker Award recognizes individuals in the 52nd Fighter Wing who intervene during one of these key moments and thereby prevent a minor failure from developing into a major mishap.
“With the recent series of mishaps that have occurred in the USAF, there is increased focus to ensure that if another accident were to occur, it is not the result of something completely within our control: discipline,” said Maj. James Broncheau, 52nd FW chief of safety. “The actions of Tech Sgt. Sayas demonstrate how a disciplined airmen, during a critical moment, used his skills and training to correct a dangerous situation and ensure the successful continued flight operations at Spangdahlem AB.”