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Vandenberg air tower goes civilian

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- The airfield tower here has become the first active-duty Air Force tower to be manned by contract civilian air traffic controllers. The switch took place Aug. 1.

The bottom line for the change boils down to manning and bucks.

"Switching to civilian air traffic controllers frees slots in a critical career field and will save the Air Force $520,000 over a three-year period," said Capt. Michael Horowitz, 30th Operations Support Squadron.

"Air traffic control is on the critical-skills list for the Air Force," Horowitz said. "To help free up some of those bodies for the rest of the Air Force, the Air Force Flight Standard Agency decided they wanted to try outsourcing some of the slower towers in the Air Force."

For almost two years, the Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration and outsourcing company Serco have worked together on the Vandenberg tower project.

"A lot of teamwork has taken place to get us to this point," said Lt. Col. Lee-Volker Cox, 30th OSS commander.

Air traffic controllers here are responsible for keeping aircraft above Vandenberg safe. They monitor the weather, make sure that aircraft are on the right courses, and direct landings and takeoffs.

Four of the five civilian controllers who work in the tower are former Vandenberg air traffic controllers.

"It's a winning team down here," Cox said. "It's really an advantage to have former Vandenberg controllers in the tower."

Even with the change to civilian controllers, service will remain the same.

"The mission will continue," Cox said. "There won't be any major changes on how we accomplish the mission. Aircraft flying into Vandenberg will still have the same service they've always had." (Courtesy of Air Force Space Command News Service)

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