Increased Flight Frequency at SAFB - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Increased Flight Frequency at SAFB

Many Texomas are wondering why more Sheppard Air Force Base pilots have been taking to the skies.  Some were concerned, it was because of recent events like the Paris shootings and pilots were being called into action.

Newschannel 6 found out it's because of the weather.

“Safety is the first priority,” Ava Margerison, the Public Information Officer for SAFB said.

She explained, on a daily basis an average of 250 flights are scheduled to take off.  She said they treat every day as if it's going to be a perfect flying day, hoping to get as many flights in as they can.  However, weather conditions and aircraft maintenance, control how many pilots actually take to the skies.

“It's icing from the cloud ceiling to winds, variable winds,” Margerison said, “Different things like that are going to cause us to stop operations.”

As she pointed out, before the holiday break in 2014 Wichita Falls got hit with some winter weather conditions.

“We had some foggy hazy weather and those weren't ideal for flying conditions,” she said, “So, we've just had to get back to flying again.”

With a perfect day like Thursday, January 15th, with crystal blue skies and light winds, they are able to have more flights take off.  So, to residents it might seem like there are more pilots in the air.  However, she said they never increase the number of scheduled flights beyond the average 250.  Margerison explained flights can be scheduled as early as two days before takeoff, or as late as the night before.

She said, “We're doing normal operations every day and we're constantly trying to keep our students on track so they can graduate on time.”

Depending on the program student pilots are doing, the number of hours they need to log in the air varies.  So, if weather conditions put them behind, officials do everything they can to put them back on track.

Safety is not only a priority in the cockpit, it's also at the forefront in the air traffic control center.  Margerison said their eyes are always on the skies as they remain in constant communication with the pilots.

If an attack happened on U.S. soil, Margerison said it's highly unlikely that the pilots would be called into action.

“This is a training base, so that would be a very, very unlikely situation.  I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but very, very unlikely.

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6
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