A look into MCAS Cherry Point air traffic control ahead of air show

CHERRY POINT, N.C. (WITN) – Roaring jets will soon fill the sky during the 2024 Cherry Point Air Show this May.

It is not a surprise a lot of coordination and logistics are needed to keep the skies safe. That work begins at the air traffic control (ATC) tower where Tower Chief Staff Sergeant Randal Lopez and his team manage the movement of vehicles and aircraft around the airfield while also delegating airspace.

“If you look around the room every Marine has a different role, right?”, Lopez said. “But even though they’re doing their own thing, they’re all supporting other controllers ensuring that we’re all on the same page.”

Handling over 300 aircraft a day, Lopez said it is crucial the air tower maintains communication with the radar branch.

Ahead of the air show, ATC Training Chief Gunnery Sergeant Andrew Harris said there are a couple of measures that need to be taken.

“The main preparation will be the arrival of the aircraft that are stationed here and departing as well,” Harris said. “We need to make sure that we have proper manning and enough controllers in the tower and in our radar room during those times to handle the increased workload.”

During the show, an air boss will be in charge of operations on the runway while ATC will assist and maintain aviator safety. Harris said although it can be stressful at times, it is just another day on the job.

“Especially if it’s a non-routine, we got pilots coming in that might not be familiar with our airfield with our airspace, so there will be some extra level of confusion which is why we add more controllers to the workflow that way we can have assisted positions and people who can provide a better service for them,” Harris said.

While they have many tasks, Lopez said the main one is keeping aviators and other Marines safe.

“There’s a lot of coordination that takes place up in the tower or via radio or just verbal communication between controllers’ and we all work as a team to ensure that everyone is safe on the ground and in the air,” Lopez said.

The Cherry Point Air Show takes place May 11th and 12th.

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