Commercial airline pilots pay visit to CONR-1st AF
By Angela Pope
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The face of commercial airline travel looks much different than it did a decade ago.
Losing radio contact for an extended period of time, veering off a filed flight plan and flying into restricted airspace are events that are no longer considered harmless. Since 9/11, seemingly innocent incidents such as these have to initially be treated as potential threats. If a pilot finds himself dealing with an inadvertent off-course diversion, he could soon see a couple of fighter jets outside his cockpit window.
To gain a better understanding of how the mission of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Continental U.S. NORAD Region and 1st Air Force impact commercial airline travel, several members of the Airline Pilots Association and corporate officers from a major commercial airline recently spent some time at Tyndall Air Force Base getting to know the men and women who defend the nation’s skies.
“One of the challenges we face is that situations that cause the Air Force to scramble jets to a commercial airliner unfold so quickly,” said Randy Harrison, managing director of corporate security for Delta Air Lines. “Those on the ground might not know right away what is transpiring between our pilots and the fighter pilots. We’re here to discuss communication procedures and techniques to help facilitate that critical flow of information.”
The two-day conference was kicked off by Maj. Gen. Scott Schofield, mobilization assistant to the NORAD commander, and Brig. Gen. William Hadaway, Air National Guard assistant to the CONR-1st AF commander. The two generals explained the missions of NORAD and CONR and how they are intertwined.
“Awareness and engagement are the buzz words here,” said Jim Mangie, flight operations military liaison with Delta Air Lines. “Do challenges exist? Yes. Can we overcome them? Absolutely, especially through engagements like we’re doing here now with 1st Air Force.
It’s crucial that we maintain solid, personal relationships, and we appreciate the great partnership we have with this organization.”
Round table discussions were peppered in throughout the conference which also included tours of the 601st Air and Space Operations Center, the 43rd Fighter Squadron and the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.
“This conference was valuable in that it let us gather and exchange information and learn about what NORAD and CONR do and how they do it,” said Jon Lewis, ALPA chairman. “We are extremely grateful to 1st Air Force for opening their doors to us.”
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