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May 01, 2015 // Facility Spotlight: Norfolk Tower (ORF)

ORF is proud to have a 100 percent NATCA membership at its 40-member facility in Norfolk, Va. Norfolk Municipal Airport opened in 1938, and was officially named Norfolk International Airport in 1976. The current level eight Tower/TRACON was commission in late January of 1995.

“The facility covers airspace which includes most of southeastern Virginia, down to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and up to West Point, Virginia,” says FacRep Chris Wells. “It is unique in that we work up to flight level 230 in two sectors of our airspace to accommodate the many military practice missions that leave from our airspace.”

In maintaining its airspace, ORF works with several other facilities including Newport News/Williamsburg Tower (PHF), Giant Killer (NVF), Chambers Naval Air Station (NGU), Oceana Naval Air Station (NTU), Langley Air Force Base (LFI), Felker Army Air Field (FAF), Elizabeth City Coast Guard Air Station (ECG), as well as various other satellite airfields.

“We work numerous military aircraft from the F-22 Raptor all the way to the C2 and E2 military transport planes that carry passengers and cargo to and from aircraft carriers,” says Wells. “We also work military helicopters, commercial flights, and other civilian aircraft. The majority of our traffic is in support of military missions that are flown out of Oceana Naval Air Station, which is the largest and busiest master jet base on the East Coast.”

Being in close proximity to so many military bases creates an interesting working environment for controllers at ORF. “We have a unique and complex airspace that changes on a regular basis to adjust and adapt to specific military operations that occur in and out of our airspace, while also maintaining civilian aircraft operations at the same time,” Wells explains. “We work a variety of aircrafts as a result: C-17 Galaxies that transport our troops, KC-135s that are involved in aerial refueling, and fighter jets coming out of the warning areas (NVF) off of the coast.”

In addition to the wide variety of aircraft ORF handles, Wells explains that there are several special and yearly events that affect the traffic load for the facility. “On a regular basis the area we serve hosts military airshows, military demonstrations, and various civilian airshows,” he says. “Every September, the airshow at NAS Oceana is a huge event, both locally and nationally, and our NATCA local has gotten involved more and more every year. We hope this year is the biggest yet – so if you’re in the area, we’d love to host you!”

There are several solidarity events held at ORF every year. “In addition to the quarterly local meetings, we have hosted family nights at places like Harbor Park – our local baseball stadium – and have attended games for our local minor league hockey team, the Admirals,” explains Wells. “We also host a facility-wide NATCA Christmas party. As stated previously, we even get involved in the NAS Oceana Air Show. We also plan on hosting more family days at the facility to encourage more family involvement in our Union.”

Having a 100 percent membership at the facility creates a vibrant and exciting environment at ORF. “Our atmosphere is one that fosters camaraderie and solidarity, we have become quite the tight-knit family,” Wells says. “We encourage open communication and collaboration, and we have a whole lot of fun together. The best part about being the NATCA rep at ORF is having the ability to help my fellow controllers while also giving back to the union that has given me so much. I’m truly honored to be a part of NATCA and my ORF local.”