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September 06, 2013 // Facility Spotlight: Santa Fe Municipal Tower

Santa Fe Municipal Tower (SAF) FacRep Shawn Forsberg works with a small but close-knit group of air traffic controllers. All six controllers at SAF are NATCA members, and that, Forsberg says, makes for a good atmosphere.

“We are a cohesive group that works great together,” he says. “There is not a lot of turnover at SAF which makes it nice to deal with things as they come up.”

SAF is a Class D VFR control tower that stands 47 feet tall. It originally opened in June of 1942. Controllers at SAF work exclusively with Albuquerque Center (ZAB) sector 16 when the tower is open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time.

Controllers at SAF work with a wide variety of aircraft, including regional jets, commuter jets, civilian aircraft, and occasionally military jets. Forsberg says there is both a civilian and warfighter jet training school at the airport which has T-39, L-29, MIG-15 and Fouga jet aircraft in its fleet.

Last year, the STARS Lite system was installed at SAF, which has helped the controllers have a much more accurate picture of where aircraft are within their airspace.

“The biggest challenge we have is the fact we have three runways that all intersect in the middle of the airfield,” says Forsberg. “All the local traffic doing VFR practice approaches to different runways, as well as touch-and-gos along with the IFR traffic, makes for some difficult and interesting situations dealing with varying aircraft and speeds.”

Besides the variety of aircraft that SAF controllers see on a daily basis, there are also several nearby events that increase traffic. Each summer, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts hosts an Indian Market in Santa Fe that attracts over 150,000 people to the area. Also, the Spanish Colonial Arts Society hosts an annual Spanish Market in the summer, which also means an influx of aircraft in the area.

“These two festivals are a big part of the Santa Fe community and draw visitors from all over the country,” says Forsberg.

Monthly fly-ins from an aviation breakfast club also increase traffic when the club meets to discuss things going on in the community and industry.

Although their varied schedules makes it difficult for NATCA members to regularly hold events, they do try to all make it to lunch every couple of months to catch up with one another.

“The best part of being the FacRep is how well we all mesh together and just get things done when needed,” says Forsberg.

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