AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
An Air Traffic Control Letter of Agreement was signed by U.S. personnel, the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) and Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) to better work together to ensure safe air space operations at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
“The document defines inter-facility procedures for Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matt Robinson, 379th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron commander. “It creates standard procedures that all controllers can train and execute, increasing predictability and enhancing safety.”
Due to the AUAB flightline closely neighboring the Hamad International Airport, the airspace is shared between military operations and civilian operations making continuity and safety a critical necessity.
“Qatar is experiencing a boom in air traffic while also expanding their military aircraft fleet,” Master Sgt. Benjamin O’Mara, 379th EOSS tower chief controller added. “We really needed to solidify our procedures on getting aircraft in and out of here without disrupting things that happen downtown at Hamad.”
To get multiple entities to come to a single agreement is not always a short and easy process especially between various nations, but the valued relationship developed in the ATC tower between the U.S. and QEAF has spread to the QCAA.
“In the last year, the EOSS has established a relationship with the QCAA, building the civil connections needed to bring the full team together,” said Robinson. “We held multiple meetings with all parties and key players to draft the specific items in the letter of agreement. According to the civil ATC representative in attendance, an agreement of this type has been attempted for the last 10 years without success. The strong relationship between all parties was the key to signing a safe and effective agreement.”
As all required signatures were received and went into effect on July 1, the U.S. and Qatar had a month to train on this document and begin implementing the procedures.
“We’re not allowed to train with the Qataris, but we all train on the same document,” O’Mara said. “We work with the Qataris every single day in the tower so we can explain to each other the procedures and watch each other train. It’s been pretty seamless between the way the U.S. trains and the way the Qataris train.”
As the QEAF continues to expand, O’Mara noted the significance this agreement holds not only between the U.S. and Qatar, but the QEAF and the QCAA.
“It’s a relationship building thing,” said O’Mara. “Working with our partners is a priority and not only were we working with our partners here in the tower and around base, but we were able to reach out to the Civil Aviation Authority downtown and really solidify our commitment to Qatar.”
It is up to O’Mara and his team to manage the flow of aircraft on the ground and in the sky. Having a strong dynamic amongst the team solidifies that trust to better safeguard the lives in the air.
“Our Qatar counterparts are a part of our family,” O’Mara stated. “Everybody is looking out for each other and making sure everything is as safe as possible and the Qataris welcoming us up to the tower and helping us take care of the mission is what we call the ‘tower team concept.’”