CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 27, 2014
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How to Become an Airfield Operations Specialist in the US

Airfield Operations Specialist

Airfield operations specialists work to enhance the operational efficiency of airports. They ensure airplanes land and take off safely by coordinating communication between the cabin crew and the air traffic control, monitoring weather conditions and maintaining navigational aids. If you are fascinated by airplanes, have an interest in air transport and possess knowledge in geography, this could be the career for you.

The work

Generally, airfield operations specialists maintain a safe airport environment in both commercial and military airports. Their day-to-day activities include:

  • Implementing safety measures to maintain a safe working environment
  • Inspecting airport areas such as hangers and runways
  • Overseeing the landing, parking, refueling, loading and departure of aircrafts
  • Supervising communication between traffic control and maintenance crew
  • Providing weather information and flight plan data to be used by the cabin crews
  • Keeping records of air crews, flight operations and events log
  • Directing emergency response units during airfield emergencies.

Source: Education Portal

Work Environment

Airfield operations specialists spend their day either in an office compiling reports or on airfields directing operations. They often work in shifts covering evenings and weekends. On-call duty is common during airfield emergencies.

When working outdoors, they work through all weather conditions and wear protective clothing such as reflective jackets and boots.

Salary

The list below shows the top paying sectors for airfield operations specialists in the U.S:

Industry

Annual Mean Wage

Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing

$75,350

Facilities Support Services

$61,110

State Governments

$58,460

Scheduled Air Transportation

$58,440

Federal Government

$54,560

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry Requirements

To become an airport operations specialist, you need to have at least an associate’s degree in aviation technology or management. Many relevant degree programs cover the following topics:

  • Aviation law
  • Aircraft systems
  • Weather
  • Aviation safety
  • Airport management

Several airports across the U.S offer internship opportunities for students who are looking to gain some experience before looking for employment.

You can also enter the profession through an airfield operations apprenticeship program recognized by the Department of Labor.

Important skills and Abilities

To become a successful airfield operations specialist, you should have:

  • Vast knowledge in transportation, customer care and public safety
  • Good spoken and written communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills to work with specialist teams effectively
  • Good leadership skills in case you are allocated a leadership role, for example, leading an emergency response unit
  • 20 / 20vision
  • Good problem solving and record keeping skills
  • An awareness of air transport safety and regulations
  • The ability to work calmly under pressure

Training and Development

Upon getting a job, you will be taken through training by experienced airfield operations specialists. After learning the ropes, you can:

  • Pursue higher qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree in airport planning and management
  • Apply to become an affiliate member of the American Association of Airport Executives. This will enhance your chances of gaining the airport executive status.

After completing these steps, you will be ready to break into airfield management positions.

Job Opportunities

The top employers of airfield operations specialists include:

  • Commercial airports
  • Private and military airfields
  • Manufacturers of airplane parts

With vast experience and higher qualifications, you can progress to become an airport manager.

Finally, both small and large airports are looking for better ways to increase efficiency and safety of operations. There is no doubt more airfield operations specialists will be needed to oversee this process. By the year 2022, the BLS expects the transportation industry in the U.S. to create about 7,250 new jobs for these specialists.

So if you have the right skills and attributes then this may well be the career for you.

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