HomeNewsArticle Display

Air National Guard restores FAA capabilities for Puerto Rico

Operations manager Edward Tirado (right) communicates with members of the emergency operations center team at the FAA's Puerto Rico Operations Center, Sept. 30, 2017. The partnership between the FAA and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was instrumental in restoring air traffic operations.  (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Capt. Matt Murphy)

Edward Tirado, operations manager (right), communicates with members of the emergency operations center team at the Federal Aviation Administration's Puerto Rico Operations Center, Sept. 30, 2017. The partnership between the FAA and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was instrumental in restoring air traffic operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Matt Murphy)

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers work at San Juan Center, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017. The controllers were communicating with aircraft utilizing a communications link provided by the Air National Guard. The Air National Guard is working with numerous federal and local agencies, such as the FAA, during the recovery effort on Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers work at San Juan Center, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017. The controllers were communicating with aircraft utilizing a communications link provided by the Air National Guard. The ANG is working with numerous federal and local agencies, such as the FAA, during the recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

Capt. Jeff Rutkowski from the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, and members of his team work inside the Puerto Rico FAA Operations Center, Sept. 30, 2017. The Wisconsin Guardsmen established a JISCC to restore air traffic communications allowing the FAA to resume full operations. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Capt. Matt Murphy)

Capt. Jeff Rutkowski from the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, and members of his team work inside the Puerto Rico Federal Aviation Administration Operations Center, Sept. 30, 2017. The Wisconsin Guardsmen established a JISCC to restore air traffic communications, allowing the FAA to resume full operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Matt Murphy)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AFNS) -- A week and a half post Hurricane Maria, it is hard to tell the Federal Aviation Administration was at “ground zero” and in the dark with no power or communication capabilities. Now, the air traffic flow at San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is back to normal thanks to the Air National Guard stepping in to help the FAA and to restore air operations for the island.

The storm on Sept. 20 hit Puerto Rico and destroyed a key generator used by the FAA to power their control center that directs aircraft movement in and around the island. The FAA’s San Juan Center is responsible for directing the movement of civilian and military aircraft for takeoff and landing, but also any aircraft flying in the vicinity.

Edward Tirado, Puerto Rico FAA operations manager, said, “We take it for granted,” as he pointed to a telephone. “It seems so simple, but it’s a lifeline for our operations. After the storm we had nothing. Thanks to our relationship with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, they were able to provide us with the assistance we needed to get back up and running and now the Air National Guard is supporting us with redundancy as a backup now that power is restored to our building.”

The loss of power and communication lines created a situation where all aircraft traffic had to be controlled by visual and physical spacing. Only one aircraft could arrive or leave the island every 10 minutes, or six per hour, to ensure that the aircraft were safely separated. Under normal operating conditions, an airport the size of San Juan International can handle about 45 flights per hour. The limited aircraft movement choked the supply chain of critical material and personnel.

The Puerto Rico ANG, while in a recovery state itself, saw the big picture and knew they needed to immediately support the FAA. The focus of the PRANG’s assistance was to help re-establish local and ground-to-air communications and to re-establish radar coverage of the air space above the island and surrounding area.

Lt. Col. Humberto Pabon, PRANG’s 156th Airlift Wing vice wing commander, understood the gravity of the situation and the necessity to restore air operations capabilities, so he set teams in motion.

“Our communications flight immediately engaged with the FAA at the airport, to begin that process. We worked with various Guard resources to provide power and immediate data link access,” Pabon said.

With basic communications established, the number of flights taking place per hour began to climb from six per hour, to 18 per hour two days after the storm, to more than 30 and finally into the upper 30s and low 40s which is normal operations.

After the storm, the PRANG’s 156th Communications Flight had immediately established a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability team giving Air Guard commanders local communications and getting their own air operation back online.

Another ANG unit, the 126th JISCC from Illinois, is powering the 156th JISCC command post and airfield management office, restoring ramp operations at the San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. The commanders and team members from all three JISCCs pulled resources and knowledge to work with the FAA and get them back up and running.

In the spirit of community partnership, the ANG provided an additional resource, the 115th Communications Flight from the Wisconsin ANG, set up a separate JISCC at the FAA communications center at San Juan. This allowed San Juan Center to begin direct communications with inbound and outbound aircraft again.

“We had to come up with multiple solutions to every challenge,” said Capt. Jeff Rutkowski, Wisconsin JISCC commander. “We’d try something and the first solution wouldn’t work. We’d get something started and realize that a better idea came along and we’d switch to that. We were dealing with a scenario where so many things were damaged. We really had to get creative.”

“This support between the Guard and the FAA is unprecedented,” said 2nd Lt. Jose Arroyo-Cruz, 156th cyberspace operations officer and one of hundreds of PRANG Airmen who have been on the job since before the storm hit. “We had a hole in the sky over Puerto Rico. It was a giant hole in the highway in the sky. We had to fix that hole before we could bring in aid to the people of Puerto Rico.”

Engage

Twitter
Know what resources, treatments & therapies are available for invisible wounds. https://t.co/H2A7fYb8s3
Twitter
“The Total Force team at Eielson plays a pivotal role that extends throughout Alaska and projects into the Arctic.”… https://t.co/7nSYEtYWHj
Twitter
RT @AETCommand: 🙌🎉 Congrats to the @usairforce's newest pilots as Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 20-18 graduates today at @…
Twitter
.@JointBasePHH Airmen participate in a ramp drop from a C-17 Globemaster III. The 25th Air Support Ops Squadron is… https://t.co/AZVT6Qzmgv
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: It is a pleasure to be in #Alaska to see #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals in action! Whether it’s F-35s & F-22s protectin…
Twitter
RT @EielsonAirForce: When @SecAFOfficial comes to visit, we show off the 'cool stuff' https://t.co/sGCSnVOOXg
Twitter
RT @USAFReserve: A career worth a thousand words: Colonel Campbell reflects on career in aviation - https://t.co/atNAeYOoMI (Story by @Dobb
Twitter
The Air Force will host the Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower conference virtually August 24–27.… https://t.co/9pRjj6U1lp
Twitter
A Rocket Propelled Grenade was launched at a Dyess AFB C-130J in September 2019. The Airmen had to respond quickly! https://t.co/fgfNkCjA4a
Twitter
#DYK The UH-1N has a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer) and is capable of flight in instrument and… https://t.co/Qcj74Tk4ra
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein has left a lasting impression on @HollomanAFB. #DYK Among his many tours, he was once commander o… https://t.co/ET8q1w8ywO
Twitter
The United States Air Forces in Europe Fire Academy & 86th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters get advanced rescue… https://t.co/AUHlxm0nPt
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Thank you to the #Airmen and #SpaceProfessionals at Clear Air Force Station and @EielsonAirForce Base for sharing their…
Twitter
#DYK The F-16A, a single-seat model, first flew in December 1976. The first operational F-16A was delivered in Janu… https://t.co/B72dKcCrnr
Twitter
#DYK The C-17 made its maiden flight on Sept. 15, 1991, and the first production model was delivered to Charleston… https://t.co/edfO5R1YEm
Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: To the @PACAF Total Force #Airmen, thank you for your dedication to the mission and your spirit to serve. https://t.co…
Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: I have no doubt @PACAF will continue to grow & prosper under the steady & focused leadership of the #USAF’s newest 4-s…
Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: For the past 2 yrs, PACAF has transformed under Gen. Brown’s leadership with a new joint mission to deter aggression i…
Twitter
This technology keeps Airmen out of harm’s way when diffusing a bomb. One of the best opportunities to check out &… https://t.co/jWkN0Vbv6c
Twitter
RT @PACAF: Join us live July 8th, as Gen. CQ Brown Jr. relinquishes command of U.S. Pacific Air Forces to Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach. To vie…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,251,143
Follow Us