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September 13, 2013 // Facility Spotlight: Meadows Field ATCT/TRACON

Halfway between Fresno, Calif. and Los Angeles, you will find the city of Bakersfield and in it, Meadows Field ATCT/TRACON (BFL).

There are 24 controllers at this facility, located in “B-Town,” which recently reached 100 percent NATCA membership. Western Pacific Regional Vice President Ham Ghaffari joined BFL in their celebration.

BFL Facility Representative Joel Riley explained that BFL seems to have become a training facility of sorts, with a constant influx of developmentals as other BFL controllers transfer to facilities such as Southern California TRACON, New York TRACON, and Guam CERAP, with much success. Riley says the influx of developmentals presents an opportunity for new members, which is the most exciting part of his position as facility representative.

“This is the grassroots part of the operation; infusing new members with knowledge, passion and true solidarity is the mission and I relish the opportunity to do so,” he says.

BFL is a level 7 up/down facility, operational from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m, PDT. The tower is designated as Class D airspace and the TRACON is delegated airspace from Los Angeles Center, surface to 13,000 feet.

The facility was commissioned in approximately 1976, though Riley has experienced great difficulty obtaining hard evidence.

BFL borders and works with a number of other air traffic facilities. Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and Oakland Center (ZOA) are to the north, Lemoore Naval Air Station (NLC) to the west, various sectors and areas of Los Angeles Center (ZLA) to the south, and High Desert TRACON (E10) is to the southeast.

Members at BFL often work a wide variety of aircraft. Skywest and United are regular carriers into and out of the airport, military trainers are active, and the Department of Justice operates a regular MD-80 shuttle flight. All Nippon Airways flight school provides the majority of the regular tower and TRACON traffic at BFL though.

“Winter brings an interesting dynamic to Meadows Field,” says Riley. “Heavy fog banks reduce the visibility to vertical visibility (VV) indefinite ceilings and runway visual range (RVR) readings below 600 feet, which shuts all airport operations down.”

These weather changes keep members’ skills sharp, says Riley. The various stages of visibility from the aforementioned to visual flight rule (VFR) weather presents a wide range of flight conditions.

Riley hopes that BFL continues 100 percent union membership as long as the facility exists. To promote solidarity, an annual barbeque is planned and members have the opportunity to discuss other activities during membership meetings.

“The NATCA local atmosphere is of various stages of interest and participation and that’s part of what’s wonderful about being the FacRep here,” says Riley.

Riley says he will continue to educate the local membership regarding the Union and safety but most important to him, he will continue to empower his members.

“I believe education on the various matters that are challenging will generate passion and participation,” Riley says. “I must admit I am enjoying the challenge.”

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