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Operation Echo seeks reduction of airfield intrusions at JBSA-Randolph

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 19, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

The 12th Operations Support Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph is leading a collaborative effort to minimize the potential of airfield intrusions on the south side of the JBSA location where a well-traveled roadway crosses the intersection of three active taxiways.

The initiative, called Operation Echo, focuses on the area of the airfield where Taxiways Delta, Echo and Foxtrot intersect with Crossover Road, also known as Golf Course Road, a thoroughfare that is traversed daily by thousands of privately owned vehicles, commercial vehicles, pedestrians and joggers.

The effort so far has resulted in the placement of signs directing motorists to maintain a straight path over Crossover Road as well as signs designating no left or right turns onto the taxiway; it also includes an increased presence by the 902nd Security Forces Squadron.

“Due to the design of the airfield at JBSA-Randolph, there are several areas that are open and not protected by fencing,” said Lee Sims, 12th OSS Airfield Operations Flight chief. “For this reason, we often have individuals who mistakenly turn onto actual taxiways.”

Another problem at the intersection of the three taxiways and Crossover Road is the failure of some vehicles and runners to yield the right-of-way to taxiing aircraft and airfield vehicles traveling through this intersection, Sims said.

“Vehicles and runners have actually run in front of maintenance vehicles, fuel trucks and even aircraft transitioning between the two runways,” he said. “The intersection of Taxiways Delta, Echo and Foxtrot is the only juncture between the two airfields as the east runway and west runway are considered separate airfields. This problem has been going on for more than the five years I’ve been at JBSA-Randolph and can be traced back further than 10 years.”

Although there have not been any accidents due to these incursions, there have been many close calls, Sims said.

“There have been times when aircraft and maintenance vehicles have had to abruptly stop to avoid collisions,” he said. “Additionally, we have had three incidents within the past six months where individuals and vehicles have actually entered the active runway. Fortunately, no aircraft were involved thanks to the fast actions of our air traffic controllers.”

Prior to Operation Echo, safety measures at the hazardous crossroads included signs, flashing lights and periodic surveillance of the area, Sims said. The initiative has resulted in the recent addition of more safeguards.

“Our partners at the 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron have placed visual signs at the intersection of Crossover Road and the three taxiways, including arrows painted on the street with the words ‘straight only’ as well as signs under each stop sign with the universal pictures for no left/right turn and straight arrows with the word ‘only’ on them,” Sims said. “Our partners at the 902nd SFS have increased their presence at Crossover Road to provide a visual reminder to drivers and to respond to any incidents immediately.”

Other components of Operation Echo have included an exercise to help increase situational awareness of maintainers, an update of the checklist used by airfield management and air traffic control to respond to airfield intrusions and a request for input from users of the airfield to address safety issues at the intersection.

Through Operation Echo, the 12th OSS – primarily airfield management and air traffic control – has partnered with the 902nd SFS, 502nd CES, 12th Maintenance Group, safety, public affairs, the Traffic Management Safety Board and the base executive agent to confront the challenges posed by the traffic issues at the Crossover Road intersection and bring down airfield incursions as close to zero as possible.

The Operation Echo working group led by the 12th Operations Group commander looks forward to more safety improvements at the Crossover Road intersection and the airfield as a whole, including the placement of small but visible cones on the roofs of authorized vehicles driven on the airfield, Sims said.

“These will be mainly for privately owned vehicles and contractors,” he said. “The addition of these cones will make it easier to identify vehicles that are authorized on the airfield from a distance.”

A more distant vision is to reroute traffic away from this hot spot with the ultimate goal of closing the road, Sims said.

“We understand this may not be financially possible, but that is our overall goal,” he said.

The base community can also play a role in improving airfield safety, Sims said.

“Our advice to anyone who uses Crossover Road for driving, walking or jogging is to remain vigilant and understand they do not have the right of way over vehicles and aircraft on the taxiways,” he said. “Remember that JBSA-Randolph is the busiest airfield in the Air Force, with more than 200,000 operations per year. When you cross the taxiway, you are crossing an active airfield that has dozens of vehicles and aircraft transiting it at any given time and through all hours of the day and night.”

Operation Echo has had an immediate impact, Sims said.

“We have great hopes for continued progress and reduction of intrusions,” he said.