Nav Canada tests remote air traffic services

Nav Canada is partnering with Ottawa-based Searidge Technologies in a trial that involves flight service specialists in Saint John, N.B., providing real-time aerodrome advisory services (AAS) to Fredericton International Airport (YFC).

Sitting in a darkened room at Saint John Airport, the flight service station (FSS) specialists peer at three monitors connected to eight cameras installed on the YFC control tower, roughly 100 kilometres (62 miles) away by car.

The trial utilizes six fixed high-definition cameras and two with pre-set zoom capabilities, allowing Nav Canada FSS personnel to take a closer look at key areas of the airfield at YFC. Nav Canada Photo

The trial, which began at the end of June and will continue through December, utilizes six fixed high-definition cameras and two with pre-set zoom capabilities that allow Nav Canada FSS personnel to take a closer look at key areas of the airfield.

The camera equipment and accompanying software were provided by Searidge, which was founded in 2006 and is considered a leader in delivering technical solutions for air traffic control applications, including remote and digital control towers. Its products are currently deployed in 25 countries around the world. Searidge is jointly owned by Nav Canada and the U.K. air navigation services provider, NATS.

For the first time, the use of powerful day-night cameras in Fredericton allows for a visual representation of the airfield, giving remotely-based flight service specialists the ability to provide full aerodrome advisory services, including the ability to direct vehicle traffic on the ground.

Previously, when the Fredericton control tower closed each evening, Saint John-based FSS specialists provided local weather and airport information via a specific radio frequency. This type of arrangement – common across the country at facilities where air traffic levels do not support full onsite services – is referred to as RAAS, or Remote Aerodrome Advisory Services.

While the RAAS system functions well, it has some limitations. For example, there is no actual visual representation of the field, so FSS personnel cannot control ground vehicle movement for things like runway checks.

“By adding a representation of the field with cameras and a remote system, we have real-time contact with the field,” explained Jérôme Gagnon, general manager for Nav Canada’s Montreal Flight Information Region and program director for Digital Facilities.

He added that the trial only applies to providing AAS to Fredericton during the midnight shift. During the day, the Fredericton control tower is in full operation.

Although Nav Canada has installed Searidge camera systems at other Canadian airports, they have so far served only to augment the view of onsite air traffic controllers and FSS personnel.

“The idea was to start using these cameras as support,” said Gagnon. “Let’s say you have a tower and that tower is static. After a while, due to other buildings and different aircraft requirements, we were adding cameras on specific sites just to improve the visibility of controllers and FSS.”

Both Nav Canada and Transport Canada, which approved the Fredericton trial, are particularly interested in evaluating how the cameras perform in all types of weather. Gagnon said it’s an ongoing process to monitor the results, but Nav Canada expects to issue a final report to Transport Canada about two months after the trial ends.

“We see a lot of possibilities,” he said. “The trial will give us more insight into what we can do in the future. One example would be to improve situational awareness by deploying them (the cameras) at certain RAAS locations.”

Safety and efficiency

Nav Canada says the remote AAS technology will allow it to respond quickly to changing service needs. Gagnon gave the example of a flight school moving to an airport with no existing Nav Canada services.

Nav Canada is also working with Transport Canada to initiate another trial in Red Deer, Alta., which will involve 46 cameras mounted on a total of four masts. FSS specialists will have 14 monitors on a video wall. Nav Canada Photo

“One thing that might be possible is that maybe we can establish that type of service remotely and adjust quickly to demand. I would say that for this type of service, the sky is the limit with digital facilities.”

Nav Canada is also working with Transport Canada to initiate another trial in Red Deer, Alta., which will involve 46 cameras mounted on a total of four masts, including two with a 360-degree view of the airfield. FSS specialists will have 14 monitors on a video wall, which will display the data tag of each aircraft alongside its icon.

While Gagnon said this technology may allow Nav Canada to “group some FSS or ATC [air traffic control] sites at some point,” it would be “premature to speculate on the resulting staffing efficiencies.”

The goal, he added, is to improve both safety and efficiency in the provision of air traffic services across the country.

“It’s a clear gain from a safety standpoint. We already had a situation where we picked up an aircraft that was supposed to hold short on the runway but didn’t – we were able to pick that up and advise traffic accordingly. Also, in all seasons, we can see fog and weather coming in. With apron lights reflecting on the low cloud situation, we can see that clearly on the weather camera at night.”

Jean-Sébastien Meloche, chief architect at Searidge, told Skies the company has operational systems around the world and knows they work, but the goal of the Fredericton trial is to refine procedures and demonstrate how the camera-augmented RAAS concept of operation can apply to the Canadian ATC market.

“Ultimately, it adds tools for the advisors to do their job,” he concluded.

Ohio State Airport fulfills critical transportation gap amid COVID-19 pandemic

For the first time in its history, The Ohio State University Airport has logged the most takeoffs and landings of all airports in Ohio for a single month. The unprecedented milestone was achieved in back-to-back months during summer 2020.

The official tallies recorded by the Air Traffic Activity System (ATADS) were 10,447 operations for June and 10,701 for July, with KOSU leading the way by a significant margin. Not only did KOSU have the greatest number of operations in Ohio, it was also eighth highest in the Great Lakes Region.

The landmark was especially celebrated by air traffic control tower staff, who safely guided each of the operations. “What an exciting time to direct air traffic at The Ohio State University Airport,” said Deral Carson, director of Midwest ATC’s tower at KOSU. “I can’t think of a better place to do air traffic control. This airport is a place where aviators can arrive and depart in safety.”

Wolf was quick to praise airport personnel for the success. “Dedication from our students, staff and faculty have made this possible and through these trying times gives me confidence that aviation will continue to drive the economy back from uncertainty.”

While it’s been widely publicized that the commercial airlines industry has seen an overall decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been somewhat less impactful for general aviation and business aviation, according to Stephanie Morgan, executive director of the university’s Air Transportation & Aerospace Campus. General aviation and business aviation are the exclusive sectors of travelers through The Ohio State University Airport.

General aviation includes most flights piloted by civilians outside of scheduled airline service, including for medical transportation, package delivery, law enforcement and pilot training. Flights made for the purpose of conducting business, such as by fractional companies, comprise the business aviation subset.

It’s conjectured that as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, many travelers on essential business rerouted their plans from commercial airlines to business aviation. General aviation also became a vital means of transporting medical specimens, for which the need has increased during the pandemic.

“General aviation is on fire right now and we are leading the effort to foster this initiative,” shared Morgan. “KOSU provides regional industry members a critical access point for travel. The importance of this role can be seen now more than ever.”

Future focused

Aviation operations isn’t the only area of the Ohio State Airport reaching new heights, flight education is also in high demand.

Despite the current decline in commercial airlines travel and subsequent temporary surplus in pilots, an overall pilot shortage persists. With new safety protocols in place, The Ohio State University Airport’s Flight Education program continues to provide world-class training to students with the goal of becoming professional pilots.

“University flight education programs are crucial to the pipeline of new pilots entering the field,” said Flight Education Director Brandon Mann. “Our enrollment demand has been steadily increasing over the past few years.”

Mann shared that despite closing operations for several weeks in early 2020 due to the pandemic, the training program still surpassed last fiscal year’s flight hours. “Now, with many new procedures in place to help combat COVID-19, we’re back in an upswing and again anticipate record-breaking flight hours over the next fiscal year [July 2020 – June 2021].”

Although not immune to change, aviation remains essential. The Ohio State University Airport is staying true to its mission through the myriad changes imposed by COVID-19.

“KOSU is open for business and we will continue forward in our mission to train the next generation of industry professionals and serve as the premier general aviation reliever airport in Ohio,” said Wolf.

by Holly Henley, communications specialist

“The F-117 force’s presence over the southwestern U.S. has greatly expanded in recent years. Now it appears to have taken on a formal aggressor role”.

The F-117 Nighthawk’s story just gets richer with age. Over the last half-decade, we have seen a consistent expansion of flying operations by the supposedly retired stealth attack jets. Although I have long posited that the F-117s that are still flying would be involved in aggressor operations, the Air Force’s demand for low-observable adversary capabilities has since become clear. Alongside this development, it has become outrightly apparent that these aircraft are in fact providing ‘red air’ support for select exercises and developmental events. Now it appears that their role as aggressors has been expanded in the form of participation in Red Flag, the Air Force’s largest international air warfare exercise held multiple times a year across the sprawling Nevada Test and Training Range, or NTTR, with the central hub of the exercise being Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas.

What we know is that a handful of the roughly four dozen F-117s still stored at Tonopah Test Range Airport (TTR) have continued to take part in research and development efforts, largely in relation to low-observable testing, which includes trialing new radar-absorbent coatings and off-board sensors. They are a central player in what is emerging to be a low-observable integrated testing task force that largely emanates from TTR and includes access to a number of exotic testbed aircraft, sensors, and threat representative systems. But another part of the F-117’s duties has blossomed into a more traditional role.

We were first to report on hard validation of the F-117’s aggressor support mission last December when evidence emerged of F-117s, flying under their now well-known “KNIGHT” callsign and working with 64th Agressor Squadron F-16s, participated in a complex air combat exercise likely related to the prestigious USAF Weapons School. Now, barring some strange coincidence of factors, it seems clear that this mission has migrated to the much larger Red Flag exercise.

Then, in May of 2020, the F-117s did something unprecedented, they flew a number of red air missions out over Pacific against a Navy Carrier Strike Group that was undergoing its most deeply integrated and complex training just prior to deployment. Since then, they have been spotted often over the vast expanses of the Mojave Desert and the NTTR. They even landed at Edwards Air Force Base recently, another first since their retirement a dozen years ago, at least as far as we know. All of this has perpetuated a sense that the F-117s are creeping steadily out of the shadows once again.

As Red Flag 20-3, which you can read all about here, hit its crescendo last week before wrapping-up on Friday, August 14th, a division (four aircraft) of F-117s were spotted intermingled with the 64th Aggressor Squadron’s F-16s, getting fuel from the ‘red air’ tanker and participating in actions downrange. Multiple similar missions are said to have occurred throughout that final week of Red Flag and satellite imagery largely confirms this.

Between Aug. 10 and 14, no less than what appears to be six F-117s appear to have been parked in the open on TTR’s northern ramp. This was a first as far as we know. Usually, no more than two F-117s go about their shy business from the base. These aircraft typically spend a brief time on the ramp and park in their own hangars after their missions are completed. Having six nighthawks consistently on the ramp during the last week of Red Flag seems very similar to the strip alert-like tactics that aggressors of the past have used at the secretive base. Tonopah Test Range Airport was turned into the sprawling installation it is today thanks in part to its use as a clandestine location to fly captured Soviet fighters out of during the twilight of the Cold War. You can learn more about the Red Eagles program and how TTR came to be in this past post of ours. It’s also worth noting that Red Flag increases in complexity to challenge its participants as it wears on, with the most capable threats often saved for the last week or last days of the exercise.

Regardless, the F-117s appear to have staged in force for what would have been an unprecedented tempo of operations, at least since their retirement, in order to support Red Flag evolutions throughout the week. Red Flag includes two sorties per day, one during mid-day and one during the night. It’s also worth noting that by most estimations only four to six F-117s were still in the flying pool. This points to the real possibility that the six jet fleet is a minimum number and more airframes may have been regenerated as the F-117’s flying duties grew.

These latest developments underscore that the secretive F-117 force, which has a direct association with the “Dark Knights” moniker, is very much involved in adversary air support, beyond discreet test and developmental duties. It would make some sense that they are providing a dissimilar, low-observable threat representation for frontline aircrews to contend with, at least until the 65th Aggressor Squadron, which will be outfitted with F-35As, comes online and can assume a similar, albeit more robust role.

Considering that the U.S. no longer has a monopoly on stealth technology, with foreign cruise missiles, fighter aircraft, and even drones being produced with low observable qualities. As a result, new sensors will be hitting the U.S. fighter force very soon that will help detect, track, and engage what radar has trouble seeing. Ever-increasing network connectivity and data fusion will also help in countering stealth threats, but you have to train against them in order to best employ these technologies operationally.

Although the F-117 doesn’t represent the cutting-edge of stealth technology, it does represent a complex foe to contend with, to say the least, and one unlike any fighter pilot or airborne early warning and control radar operator has ever seen before. Considering the edge the U.S. still holds in terms of low-observable technologies, the F-117 is at least a decent stepping stone and stop-gap measure before employing true 5th generation aggressor aircraft.

Paired with electronic warfare and creative tactics, one can imagine just how wily the F-117s could be as part of the greater aggressor force. Far lesser aircraft are used daily in the adversary role in the hands of contractors. How higher-end and lower-end assets are mixed into a potent adversary air plan is what really matters when it comes to stress-testing U.S. and allied fighter aircrews.

All these factors, as well as the need for F-117s to continue to act as a control variable in developmental testing, have led to what appears to be a bizarre renaissance for the once written-off F-117 Nighthawk, even if its shallow resurgence will only be for a limited period of time. Still, an F-117 aggressor gives the Pentagon’s growing adversary air community a highly unique asset to employ against pilots that could very well end up facing off against an enemy stealth asset in actual combat. With their inclusion in this iteration of Red Flag, we may very well be seeing much more of the “Black Jet” in the not so distant future, at least before they finally vanish for good.


Pilots try out new helmet display in F-16V flight tests

An American-made F-16V releases flares during a military exercise in Taichung. Taiwan, on July 16, 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

JERUSALEM — Recent flight tests of the F-16V fighter jet incorporated a new version of the pilot’s helmet that introduces a visor with optical inertial trackers and is designed to provide improved durability, accuracy and comfort for long flights.

The Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II is manufactured by Collins Elbit Vision Systems, a joint venture between Collins Aerospace and Elbit Systems of America.

The flight tests followed a safety qualification test for the helmet last year meant as a step toward making the JHMCS II the baseline helmet for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Viper (V) Block 70/72, made by Lockheed Martin. The safety test was performed on the ground, and the helmet was subjected to wind blasts.

Jeff Hoberg, a co-general manager with the joint venture, said the helmet was specifically created for aircraft like the F-16V and builds on the legacy of the earlier JHMCS variants used on F-15, F-16 and F-18 jets.

With an optical inertial tracker, the JHMCS II is more accurate than previous models, and its improved center of gravity mitigates pilot fatigue, as the helmet aligns better with the spine, Hoberg said. The optical tracking is made possible by upgrades to algorithms and software, the placement of a tracking part on the front of the helmet above the eyes, and a reference unit on the dashboard console of the aircraft.

“Likewise it has a color display, and when you add color to the display, air crew can absorb more information,” he added.

The next step for the helmet, Hoberg explained, is to continue flight tests this year and through early next year, with the expectation that the new variant will be certified as the baseline helmet for the F-16V. The JHMCS II is the only helmet-mounted display integrated and tested on the F-16V.

“Flight tests is the next milestone as we partner with Collins Elbit Vision Systems on the JHMCS II, and we look forward to continued collaboration,” said Danya Trent, vice president of the F-16 program at Lockheed.

The F-16V aircraft, equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar, are part of a new Lockheed production line in Greenville, South Carolina, announced last year. The company said in a 2019 interview that it expected hundreds of aircraft to be upgraded to the Viper model and up to 500 more to be sold in the next decade, with F-16s estimated to be keep flying into the 2040s. The fourth-generation “V” model first flew in 2015 and is going through a flight test phase. F-16V sales and upgrades to the variant are in the works for Taiwan, Bahrain and Bulgaria, among other countries.

B-17 Flying Fortress returns to Erie-Ottawa International Airport

The Yankee Air Museum announced it is dispatching its flagship, the Boeing B-17G “Yankee Lady,” to Port Clinton on Saturday, Aug. 8. The Museum’s award-winning World War II heavy bomber is visiting Liberty Aviation Museum at 3515 E. State Rd., Port Clinton, adjacent to the Erie-Ottawa International Airport.

The plane will arrive at approximately 10 a.m. from its base at historic Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., and begin offering self-guided tours and Air Adventure rides.

“Our B-17 Yankee Lady and crew are honored to be guests, and indeed friends of Liberty Aviation Museum,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of Yankee Air Museum. “This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War Two, and bringing our Salute to Victory tour to Liberty Aviation Museum, an institution rich in World War Two history, means a lot to us.”

Walsh said the B-17 is the type of four-engine heavy bomber that initiated daylight strategic bombing in World War II. Its purpose was to fly high and deep into enemy territory, striking high value targets such as munitions factories, oil refineries and military installations.

According to Walsh, 12,731 of these stout aircraft were built between 1936 and 1945. With a crew of 10 and defensive armaments of up to 13 fifty-caliber machine guns, the B-17 became known as the Flying Fortress. More than 5,000 were shot down over Europe during the historic air war. “Today, there may be only 10 airworthy Boeing B-17s left in existence, so it’s important that we share this flying museum and honor our Greatest Generation,” said Walsh.

Walsh is encouraging everyone to come out and see this award-winning, historic aircraft. “Touring the plane or even better, flying on it, will give you a deep appreciation of what our World War Two airmen did for us. It is an unforgettable experience,” he said.

The B-17 Yankee Lady will stay through the day, offering tours and Air Adventure rides from about 10 a.m. until about 4 p.m. Self-guided ground tours cost $8 for adults aged 15 and above; $3 for kids aged 6 to 15 and all others are free. Air Adventure rides on the B-17 are available at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

An Air Adventure ride is a 30-minute experience and costs $475. To order a B-17 Air Adventure visit and click on “Fly With Us.”

“It is impossible to keep planes like the Yankee Lady B-17 operating without community support at home and everywhere we fly,” said Walsh. “We appreciate the support of the Erie-Ottawa International Airport and Liberty Aviation Museum for helping make this mission possible.”

V-22 joint program reaches production milestone with 400th delivery

Air Commandos with the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron accept delivery of a new CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jun. 2, 2020. The 801st SOAMXS helps keep Ospreys ready to execute infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions worldwide. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Nathan LeVang)

The Air Force Special Operations Command received its 53rd CV-22 Osprey June 2, marking the 400th delivery of a V-22 in the history of the joint program.

“It’s been more than 20 years since the first production V-22 was delivered and we are proud to reach another milestone in our 400th delivery. V-22s continue to be in high demand, protecting our country and our allies around the world through combat operations, international training partnerships and humanitarian missions,” said Marine Corps Col. Matthew Kelly, program manager for the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275). “This platform’s impact can’t be overstated.”

The Marines received the first production V-22 on May 24, 1999 and today, deliveries continue under the Multi-year Procurement III contract, valued at $5 billion through 2024. The contract includes all variants of the aircraft: Marine, Air Force, Navy and the first international customer, Japan.

The V-22 is the world’s first tiltrotor aircraft in production, combining the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel efficiency and speed characteristics of a turboprop aircraft. For the Special Operations Forces, the CV-22 supports long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions. The Marine Corps’ MV-22B provides assault support transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment—day and night—under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations.

With the V-22 expected to be in service beyond 2040, capability enhancements and readiness initiatives are program priorities, including digital interoperability, nacelle improvements, and fleet modernization efforts.

“This platform still has decades remaining to its service life,” said Kelly. “We are focused on keeping it a relevant, reliable and effective well into the future.”

In addition to ongoing production and sustainment efforts in the program, the V-22 Joint Program Office also manages development and test of the latest addition to the V-22 family of aircraft, the CMV-22B. The CMV-22B is the Navy’s carrier onboard delivery replacement aircraft. The first two aircraft are currently in developmental test.

PMA-275 manages the cradle to grave procurement, development, fielding, sustainment and disposal of the tiltrotor program for the DOD and its international partners.

The Blue Angels Navy Squadron: A Look At The 2nd Oldest Aerobatic Team In The World

Here’s the history of the Blue Angels, the world’s most famous aerobatic team that was originally meant to boost morale after WW2.

Blue Angel flying low
Not long after the Wright brothers made their historic flight, ingenious men began using airplanes in a variety of ways that have since become common place in the modern world. As a fast and safe mode of transportation, an efficient way to haul goods to the delivery of healthcare and medicines, the airplane is has proven itself as an indispensable machine.

In a similar vein, while most men saw the airplane as a tool to help in jobs and work, other more imaginative, adventurous men saw the airplane as a means to explore, a means to entertain and a way to perform feats of bravery and aerial acrobatics.

In this article, we look at one of the best teams that perform amazing feats of aerobatics, a select group of men and machines that have thrilled audiences since the days of WW2 where their skill and courage at piloting aircraft entertained their both their brothers in arms and their nation caught up in the ravages of war. Today we check out these amazing facts about the Blue Angels.

The brainchild of famed WW2 admiral Chester Nimitz, the Blue Angels were created in 1946 to provide morale to the troops and garner public support and interest in military aviation. Initially led by WW2 ace Rey Voris, he selected three other skilled pilot/instructors that formed the first team of naval aviation aerial acrobats.

While the Blue Angels’ almost seventy-five year history is indeed a long time together as a team, the honor of being the very first aerial stunt/performance team goes to Patrouille de France whose origins date back to 1931, a good fifteen years head start.

As the Blue Angels officially formed in April 1946 and was scheduled to perform in August, the team of Commander Voris had four months to train. In response, they spent much time in practice and perfected its initial maneuvers in secret over the Florida Everglades. A decision humorously described by Voris, “if anything happened, just the alligators would know”.

As WW2 only recently ended, the navy’s old workhorse, the Hellcat, found itself as the ride of the newly formed Blue Angels team for its first ever exhibition in July 1946. Less than a month later, the team transitioned to the newer Bearcat and used it until 1949.

When they started, the Blue Angels used battle hardened WW2 era planes, but this changed in 1949, when the new F9F-2 Panther was adopted by the team. This marked a significant change as the power and handling of their aircraft allowed them to perform faster and more complex flying.

The main qualifications to become a Blue Angel pilot require the applicant to be either Navy and Marine Corps aviators with a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet hours and must be carrier-qualified. For selection, current team members hold a secret vote with no accountability to higher Navy authority and finally, all votes must be unanimous.

The signature move of the Blue Angels is the “Diamond Formation” in which 4 of the planes form a tight cluster with the other 2 making their own. From this “diamond” the planes then transition to the other maneuvers and stunts and finish the performance by having the plane move to the Delta formation.

Despite performing some of the most difficult aerial maneuvers, the Blue Angels pilots don’t use protective G-suits as the inflation/deflation air bladder function could interfere with the pilots’ ability for precision control. To compensate, the pilots have trained in breathing and muscle control to prevent blacking out while doing High G movements.

Humorously named “Fat Albert” the C-130 Hercules is the largest aircraft used by the Blue Angels. Used primarily to transport equipment, tools and supplies, this behemoth used to perform its own exhibition as well, (jet assisted take-offs) until supplies of the rockets became scarce and the stunt was no longer included in their performances.

From 1946 to 1986, the Blue Angels have flown a total of ten different types of aircraft. From the WW2 prop planes to today’s fourth generation fighter jets, the team have used the current aircraft in use by the navy as their precision instruments for their exhibitions.

“The Cradle of Naval Aviation”, Pensacola naval air station is the home of the Blue Angels. Located in Florida, the base serves as a technical school and training facility for navy, marine and coast guard personnel.

Born as a machine made for war, the F/A 18 Multi role fighter used by the Blue Angels is maintained in top shape all year round to ensure the safety of the pilots during their training and performances, and as both the plane and pilots are active duty members of the naval aviation squad, the jets are capable of being combat, and carrier ready in less than seventy-two hours.

While watching the Blue Angels perform their aerial mastery on the ground is a visual treat, the real thrill goes to the pilot and certain audience members or VIP’s that are granted a seat in the actual plane during some of their performances.

Initially called “Navy Flight Exhibition Team”, the name Blue Angels came from the New Yorker, a magazine that featured a club called “The Blue Angels” which a pilot saw and suggested as the new name. As a naval organization, the team adopted the blue and gold colors to reflect their origins, marking all their planes in this paint scheme.

After thirty-five years the Blue Angels will be using a different plane. By 2021, delivery of the more powerful F/A 18 Super Hornets to the team will commence, replacing their older 1986 issued Hornets. With this upgrade to a faster, more maneuverable jet, its quite likely that the Blue Angels will be able to level up their already impressive routines.

See a 117th Air Refueling Wing plane fly over Birmingham hospitals Tuesday, May 5

Look up to the Birmingham sky Tuesday afternoon to see an aircraft from Birmingham’s 117th Air Refueling Wing fly over local hospitals. Keep reading for all the details, including more ways to show support for our local healthcare heroes now!

On Tuesday, May 5, a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft from the 117th Air Refueling Wing—a unit of the Alabama Air National Guard, stationed at Birmingham’s Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base—will be flying over hospitals in Birmingham, sending a salute to local healthcare heroes, essential workers and others on the frontlines responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

The mission is part of the nationwide Air Force Salutes Flyover under Operation American Resolve, a national effort to salute hospital employees and patients. Flyovers will happen across Alabama on Tuesday with aircraft from the 187th Fighter Wing based in Montgomery flying over Auburn, Tuskeegee, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Decatur, Mobile and Dothan!

Social distancing guidelines still apply, so if you’re planning on watching the flyovers, avoid gathering in groups and traveling to hospitals. If you live near the flyover locations listed above, you will be able to see the plane from the safety of your home.

You can share videos and photos of the flyover with the 117th ARW and the 187th FW by using the hashtags #WeSaluteAlabama, #AirForceSalutes and #TogetherAL.

You’ve probably seen ways people all over the world have been showing their support for healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. Whether by coordinating flyovers, applauding their work, or simply sharing a positive message, it’s important now more than ever that they know how incredibly thankful we are for their daily sacrifices and hard work.

Thunderbirds fly over Colorado’s Front Range Saturday to thank frontline workers

By: Robert GarrisonPosted at 9:36 AM, Apr 18, 2020 and last updated 7:31 AM, Apr 19, 2020

DENVER — The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed a flyover Saturday, crisscrossing the Front Range to honor and salute Colorado’s frontline workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The team, from Nellis Air Force Base In Las Vegas, flew over several hospitals in a dramatic demonstration to show their support for health care workers.

The flyover began around 1:30 p.m. in Northern Colorado after a small delay. The flight path took them over Fort Collins and Loveland. About 10 minutes later, the jets flew over Boulder and then into the Denver metro area, leaving south to Colorado Springs.

Later, the team flew over the U.S. Air Force Academy, where Vice President Mike Pence was delivering the commencement address to the Academy’s 2020 graduating class.

The flight path included a flyover in Pueblo before turning west back to Las Vegas.

How airport control towers keep operating after workers test positive for coronavirus

Air traffic controllers direct aircraft from the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport. The FAA has had to be creative to keep the towers operating during the coronavirus crisis.(Federal Aviation Administration)

APRIL 13, 20209:58 AM

When a traffic control tower worker at Palm Beach International Airport recently tested positive for the coronavirus, the staff evacuated the tower to allow for a thorough cleaning.

A makeshift tower to temporarily direct planes was then set up at the top of a nearby parking garage.

The incident is one of several in the last few weeks that demonstrate how air traffic control workers have had to turn to creative alternatives to keep airlines operating in the midst of a pandemic that has so far infected more than 75 control tower workers across the country.

The workload for air traffic controllers has been lessened lately with airline traffic dropping by as much as 65% across the country and the demand for air travel in a nosedive over the last month.

But air traffic control workers say social distancing is nearly impossible in cramped towers, where a team of up to a dozen people work in a room no bigger than a small one-bedroom apartment.

The air traffic control room, known as a “cab,” at Los Angeles International Airport is about 800 square feet, but smaller airports have tower cabs about half that size.

“We have been completely collaborative with the FAA,” Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn., said in a recent conference call with union leaders in the aviation industry. “But we have to make sure that our workers are protected.”

Air traffic control workers aren’t alone in having to come up with new work policies to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

The Los Angeles Police Department is taking the temperature of officers before each shift, and roll calls are conducted with officers spaced far apart to ensure an appropriate physical distance.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has accelerated the graduation of its next class of firefighters and has asked retired firefighters to volunteer to help during the crisis.

At the Fairplex in Pomona, a child-care center for the children of first responders and medical staff has divided the children into small groups and assigned them to separate rooms to reduce the chance that the virus can spread to all of them.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is holding meetings with bus drivers outdoors whenever possible and taking the temperature of drivers twice a day to try to slow the spread of the virus.

In the wake of dozens of air traffic control workers testing positive for the virus, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an internal memo in early April on how to schedule workers during the crisis. The memo, which was reviewed by The Times, called on each airport tower to divide the staff into crews, each with the minimum number of workers to operate a tower for one shift.

Employees will work with the same crew on all their scheduled shifts, the memo said. That way if a tower employee becomes infected, that person would expose only the other members of his or her crew and not members of other crews.

“This approach strives to ensure that social distancing practices are maximized while also supporting the mission of the agency,” according to the memo.

In addition, FAA workers are using portable communications equipment that allows them to continue to direct planes even when they have to abandon a control tower for a cleaning.

In large airports that have more than one control tower, such as Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one tower is kept as a “clean spare” in case the primary tower must be temporarily shut down for a cleaning after a worker tests positive for the virus, FAA representatives said.

At LAX, a retired control tower that was built in 1961 and is now used primarily for office space is designated as a backup for the current air traffic control tower, which opened in 1996.

Some of the nation’s largest airlines also have what is called a ramp tower, which operates like a control tower but is used instead by individual airlines to direct planes on the ground, moving along the tarmac and in and out of the gates.

On April 3, the Delta Air Lines ramp tower at Orlando International Airport temporarily replaced the main control tower after a tower control worker tested positive for the coronavirus and the FAA evacuated the tower for cleaning.

By keeping the Orlando airport open, the tower was able to land a plane that was carrying a passenger who was having a medical emergency, Doug Lowe, a technician at the Orlando tower, said in the union conference call.

“It was a good thing we did it,” he said. “There was quite a bit of traffic that continued to come in here.”

When another worker tested positive at Palm Beach International Airport a few days earlier, control tower workers took portable communications equipment to the top of a nearby parking garage, where they directed planes by sight until sunset, according to tower workers.

Once it was too dark to direct the planes by sight, the job of directing planes was turned over to the nearest Terminal Radar Approach Control, or Tracon, which directs planes in the airspace between airports.

In late March, the tower at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was closed for about a week after a tower worker tested positive for the virus and the rest of the tower staff was quarantined, FAA officials said. During that time, some flights were canceled and many more were directed into the airport by the Las Vegas Tracon.

“Each disruption has a distinct impact on the air traffic system,” the FAA said in a statement. “We are experiencing this at the handful of facilities already affected by COVID-19. This is frustrating and inconvenient, but is necessary in the interest of safety.”