Team Approach To Flightline Operations
by U.S. Air Force Keefer Patterson
Space Base Delta 1, U.S. Space Force
September 30, 2023
The history between Peterson Space Force Base and the Colorado Springs Airport goes back over 80 years, to April 8, 1942, when construction next to the already-established municipal airport began on a new Army Air Base, later named Peterson Field.
Encompassing approximately 1,600 acres, most of Peterson SFB does not operate on federally owned land. Instead, it is a partnership on land leased to the Department of the Air Force by the Colorado Springs Airport, an enterprise of the city of Colorado Springs.
September 5, 2023 - From left, Courtney Davis, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron airfield operations flight chief, and Jeremy Owings, Colorado Springs Airport operations manager, observe a C-130H Hercules as it taxis off the ramp at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. Davis and Owings oversee the day-to-day flightline operations between Peterson SFB and Colorado Springs Airport. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jazmin Smith.)
With over 11,000 civilian and military employees, the base is home to various top-level military commands vital to U.S. national security and defense and houses military families, recreational facilities and various installation-supporting infrastructures. On the south end of the base, across the runway facilitating the inbound and outbound transit of over 2.1 million passengers a year, is the Colorado Springs Airport.
The connected flightline is a shared responsibility between the airport and Peterson SFB which requires significant coordination between various government agencies to ensure seamless flow of both military and civilian air operations.
Overlooking the flightline, the Air Traffic Control Tower, managed by the Federal Aviation Administration, coordinates the arrival, departure and surface movement of all aircraft.
From there, the rest of the day-to-day operations are overseen by two people — Courtney Davis, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron Airfield Operations Flight chief, and Jeremy Owings, Colorado Springs Airport operations manager.
“Other than the Peterson ramp, the city owns, operates and maintains the runways, taxiways and facilities,” Owings said. “On the civilian side we deal with all manner of federal —DoD here, FAA there, Transportation Security Administration, just to name a few.”
The relationship between Davis and Owings is vital to ensuring the safety of the infrastructure and the success of airfield operations.
“People always ask why the partnership works so well between the airport and the base,” Davis said. “It works well because we care about each other. Jeremy’s success is my success, and my success is his success. He’ll run his operations from the civil side, and I’ll run things from the military side. But we both share in the successes and failures that happen here at the airport.”
In the aviation industry it’s well known that no single airport is exactly alike. Each one is unique — defined by factors such as consumer demand, geographic and meteorological terrain.
“We have a joke in airport operations that if you’ve seen one airport, then you’ve seen one airport,” Owings said. “The airport here leases the base to Peterson, which is fairly unique. In lieu of rent payment, the Air Force provides services such as medical first response to civilian terminals, fire response to the flightline and aircraft, aviation bird strike mitigation and other support functions. We normally have a landing fee for any airplane that is landing. However, there’s no landing fees charged to the military here. That’s a massive savings for Peterson. I’d say the relationship between us is symbiotic.”
On average, the shared runway supports 155,000 air operations a year, with military operations accounting for approximately 8,000. These figures include commercial transportation, distinguished visitors and training missions.
“Military units like coming here to train before they head off to places like Southeast Asia, or even Afghanistan,” Davis said. “The mountains that we have here may simulate some of the environment they may see out there. We have a great partner here with Fort Carson. They’ll come in for touch-and-gos and practice real-world things they would see in the fight out there.”
Throughout the year, various key military and political leaders will land at Peterson SFB.
“POTUS just recently landed here,” Davis said. “We had a presidential detail, we had the Air Force Thunderbirds ... all those things Jeremy and I coordinated together. The footprint the President brings is massive. So, from the time the secret service gives me a call, Jeremy is a part of that conversation. Everything starts right here.”
Growing in Size and Scope
As the population increases, so will the demand for air transportation. Colorado Springs is Colorado’s largest city by area, and second only to Denver in population.
El Paso County, where Colorado Springs resides, is projected to see over a quarter of a million new people by 2045, and the population for the city will likely be home to about two-thirds of these residents. By that time, Colorado Springs will grow to be the size of the current City and County of Denver, according to coloradosprings.gov.
Just as population and demand are expected to grow, so is the size of the flightline.
“The current construction on Taxiway Bravo is an effort that is being taken on by the Airport,” Davis said. “The entire project I think is going to run about $15 to $16 million or more, and it’s going to be zero cost to the military. It’s a taxi route that is primarily used by the military. This money that they are spending, you can say it’s for us here at Peterson, to support Peterson. It’s an absolutely massive gift that I couldn’t get without them.”
Airfield operations is no easy job. Whether it is safety, security or logistical problem solving, it takes dedication and continuous coordination to ensure every aircraft has a safe place to take off and land. For Davis and Owings, the future looks bright for this civilian and military partnership.
“It is the best relationship I have from the civilian sector,” Davis said.
U.S. Space Force | U.S. Department of Defense
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