For a U.S. Navy Air Traffic Controller (AC), maintaining complete awareness of the status of airfield maintenance vehicles and ground personnel—as well of the aircraft preparing for takeoff—is just as crucial as coordinating the arrivals and departures of various airborne assets. This is particularly vital on an aircraft carrier, where space limitations mean that aircrews and maintenance equipment are present and in close proximity to landing and departing planes on the flight deck. On the other hand, the presence of a single “runway” on a carrier means that the AC serving on a does not have to worry about multiple aircraft simultaneously taxiing into position.

The importance of the role Air Traffic Controllers play in air safety was tragically hammered home by a non-military disaster, the collision of two Boeing 747s on the runway at Tenerife in 1977. The two commercial airliners, diverted to the small island airport because of a bomb explosion and subsequent threat of another bomb detonation at another airport, collided on the runway as one plane was just lifting off the tarmac. Nearly 600 people were killed in the incident.

U.S. Navy Air Traffic Controllers have an outstanding history of ensuring the safety of aircraft and aviation personnel, with the vast majority of aviation mishaps being caused by mechanical failures or other factors not related to their duties as ACs.

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