YOKOTA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan -- Airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing Safety Office and 353rd Special Operations Group Safety Office hosted guests from the Tokyo Aviation Police and the Japanese Coast Guard to speak about Yokota’s operational procedures on Mid Air Collision Avoidance or MACA, April 7, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“MACA, in short, keeps aircraft from flying into each other. That’s the simplest way to put it,” said Lt. Col. Sean Powers, 374th Airlift Wing chief of safety and MACA coordinator. “It keeps airplanes from running into things but it takes more than aircraft to do that.”
Although aviation conversation is often focused on the pilots, there's a large network of people such as air traffic controllers, base operations personnel and maintenance teams who make sure the necessary equipment works properly. Hosting local aviators creates a bilateral opportunity to recognize Yokota Airmen at every level of the MACA process as well as expands readiness and relationships.
“You can't be ready if your aircraft aren’t flying safely. Airspace isn't just for one person, or one aircraft. Airspace is shared,” Powers said. “Those who share the airspace with us are people we need to have good relationships with.”
Local Aviators were escorted on base in accordance with COVID-19 preventative measures for a presentation covering Yokota’s mission, the local aircraft and the state of the airspace. They reviewed midair collision avoidance techniques and potential flying hotspots to safely maneuver and concluded the experience with a tour of the tower and radar control facility.
“This allowed them to talk to some of our controllers directly,” said Capt. Christopher Wolff, 374th AW flight safety officer and MACA coordinator. “…to hear firsthand some of the challenges our controllers have maintaining aircraft separation and positive control of our airspace.”
Some may say ‘it’s a really big sky so what’s the worry?’ But, Tokyo has nearly 10 million residents and one of the most congested airspaces in the world.
“People may be surprised to know just how difficult of a task MACA is to pull off,” Powers said. “The fact that we do it every day is really a tribute to the professionalism of the Airmen and our Japanese counterparts.”
In the event of large-scale disasters or emergencies the possibility of joint operations is very high, making exchanges like these imperative to mutual success.
“This was a very meaningful and valuable experience,” said Japan Coast Guard Maj. Tsukasa Kishihara, 3rd Regional Coast Guard, Haneda Air Station Chief Pilot and MACA participant. “We were able to deepen our insight into the wide range of operations at Yokota Air Base and feel the high level of awareness of the US Air Force mission. In the future, we would like to continue exchanges to deepen mutual understanding.”
By building direct relationships with other flying organizations such as the Tokyo Aviation Police and the Japanese Coast Guard, we create a safer environment for everyone operating within the airspace.
“It's important because it's a huge readiness piece,” Powers said. “MACA should never be taken for granted.
“Losing one aircraft is never acceptable, one is always too much.”