The flight tower is where AIRPOWER is orchestrated. From here, Display Director Dietrich Springer is able to monitor every movement of air and runway traffic – drawing a yellow or red card, if necessary.
How does this man do it? Major Dietrich Springer, Display Director of AIRPOWER16, is the epitome of calm, despite having to operate in the eye of the storm. The participating aircraft are taking off and landing at Hinterstoisser air base minute by minute. Springer is solving problems by telephone (surprise guest A400M arrives earlier than planned, the programme for the live ticker needs to be updated). He times the length of the flying display of one of the other participants (it goes two minutes over the allotted time, so he will have to have a serious word with them later). And yet he still has time to get as giddy as a kid about the show. "I'm getting quite emotional," he says with a smile. "After months of planning together with various partners, now everybody is here and makes this AIRPOWER an unforgettable event."
A highly focused team
From the 41.5m control tower, Dietrich Springer monitors every movement on the airfield together with his Deputy Display Director Major Thomas Ploder – a valuable support to him. Meanwhile a team of controllers provides him with all the information he needs: the Tower Controller keeps an eye on air traffic and gives pilots instructions. The Ground Controller monitors all ground movements – a job which on any normal day the Tower Controller would do as well, but the responsibility is too great for just one person to handle at major events such as AIRPOWER. The third man in the core team is the coordinator, who is responsible for managing all take-offs and landings. A director of operations is always present in the tower as well, ready to call the emergency and rescue services to action in the event of any minor or major incident and manage proceedings.
Strict safety regulations
The control tower personnel are not just responsible for supervising and coordinating the airshow, they are also there to enforce the rules and regulations. "There are international safety regulations which we enforce with an iron rod," says Dietrich Springer. Three different lines tell the pilots where they must finish their manoeuvres at the latest: after the 450m line the pilot is prohibited from heading towards the crowd. Generally aircraft are not allowed to fly beyond the 230m line – with the exception of the slowest aircraft, which are permitted to fly as far as the 100m line. "From the tower I can see straight away if anyone has failed to comply," says Dietrich Springer. In which case the affable Display Director reveals his tough side: "Any violation is immediately disciplined," he says. "Either with the yellow card, a warning. Or the red card, disqualification." After all, AIRPOWER's reputation as Europe's safest airshow is at stake...