DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
On April 13, 2021, the quick actions by a Team Dover air traffic control tower watch supervisor prevented an aircraft mishap as a forklift operator started to cross an active runway just as a C-5M Super Galaxy, with 12 aircrew aboard, touched down on the same runway.
At the time of the incident, Paul Brassfield, 436th Operations Support Squadron air was working in the Dover Air Force Base tower local control position when he overheard the ground controller and watch supervisor frantically trying to contact the forklift operator.
“GO-AROUND, GO AROUND, GO AROUND!” Brassfield quickly transmitted over his headset to the C-5 pilot.
Brassfield’s quick thinking and experience averted a potential mishap and significant loss of life by approximately four seconds. For his actions, Brassfield was presented the Lt. Gen. Gordon A. Blake Aircraft Assist Award, March 3, 2022.
“It's truly an honor to be recognized at this level,” he said. “As air traffic controllers, we often lose sight of our position's magnitude. We are a team of professionals that consistently operate at a high level to protect vehicles, aircraft and personnel 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This award is a humbling reminder that what we do is essential, and I'm overjoyed that after 37 years of service, I still add value to this high-performance team.”
The Air Force Flight Standards Agency award recognizes immediate actions taken by U.S. Air Force, Airfield Operations personnel that result in the safe recovery of an imperiled airborne aircraft, or help given to an endangered aircraft on the ground.
“As an aircrew member, that’s exactly what we are looking for from members of RAPCON [Radar Approach Control] and [Dover AFB] Tower,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Stein, 436th Operations Group deputy commander. “That kind of attention to detail, stepping up and making the right call at the right time to help out to save that airplane and crew.”
Brassfield recalled the events that transpired that day, stating he heard a commotion from a colleague working ground control as well as from the watch supervisor. While several people work separate positions, tower personnel operate under a team construct. They’re always scanning the airfield to maintain situational awareness ensuring the safety of all aircraft and vehicles operating on the airfield. This total team concept, as well as a keen attention to details when training, is what Brassfield attributes to preventing the incident.
“Effective leadership and the career’s no-nonsense focus on training,” he said when highlighting the determining factors of the tower’s successes. “Preparation, combined with the confidence instilled in us by our leadership, endows us with the ability to calmly and competently [handle] situations like these consistently.”
Master Sgt. Lindsay Pace, 436th OSS air traffic control tower chief controller, said Brassfield is an invaluable resource to the team and his experience makes everyone around him better.
“Mr. Brassfield is a critical part of the 436th OSS and air traffic control,” said Pace. “His actions that day highlighted his professionalism, skills and dedication to the mission that he exudes every single day. There is no doubt that his actions averted a potentially catastrophic event.”