Air Controllers and Emergency Responders in Same Location at Air - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Air Controllers, Emergency Responders in Same Location at Air Races

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Each day the Reno Air Races start with a safety briefing for pilots. Retired Navy fighter pilot, Greg Peairs, serves as the Air Boss for the Reno Air Races, and keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes. They start each day with a ten minute meeting. "So everybody-- before they go out and fly-- knows what the rules are on a daily basis. They know what the plan is for the day," said Peairs. 

Things happen fast when you're trying to keep track of multiple airplanes racing around pylons at high speeds. For the first time, the control tower at the Stead Airport is home to both air traffic controllers and emergency response officers. 

Tim Spencer serves as Emergency Services Director during the air races. He says combining the two teams is more efficient and effective. "When we have an emergency, it's very important to communicate with race control," he said.

Spencer, who is a Division Fire Chief for the Reno Fire Department, oversees 85 emergency personnel during the air races. He says putting everyone in the same place helps streamline communications. "We have units strategically placed all over the airfield, so it gives us the ability to respond anywhere on the air field in less than a minute."

Controllers can now talk face-to-face with first responders as they coordinate emergency rigs and airplanes. According to Peairs race controllers used to be stationed in another location. "Where before if Tim needed something," said Peairs. "He'd have to get on the phone and call us down at race control. Sometimes the phone didn't work quite right; sometimes it did. It was hard to hear. Now if Tim needs something, he turns to my right, I'm 18 inches away from him. He says 'Hey can we do that?'" Peairs says they can usually authorize vehicle movement immediately. 

The people in charge say making the change comes down to making things safe for everyone. "This is the first year we've done it," said Spencer. "It's working out great."  

Written by Jennifer Burton.

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