Army Flight Operations Detachment (AFOD)
The Army Flight Operations Detachment (AFOD), located in Heidelberg, Germany, is an unique support organization in the US Army. Organized in 1957, AFOD was created to provide centralized flight services to all US Army aircraft operating in Europe. Today, AFOD provides continuous 24 hours a day, 365 days a year support for over 1,000 Army aviators flying nearly 400 aircraft operating out of 57 US Army airfields, heliports in Germany, and for flights throughout US European Command's area of responsibility (in excess of 80 nations).
The central point of contact for all aviation related matters, AFOD also serves as an extension of the USAREUR Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations (ODCSOPS), Aviation Branch, for the processing of routine operational and administrative actions. In addition to providing flight service support to more than 20,000 flights annually, AFOD supports all of USAREUR's aviation training exercises and contingency missions. For example, during OPERATION DESERT SHIELD/STORM and, most recently, OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR, AFOD was instrumental in tracking USAREUR's aviation assets during deployments and re-deployments.
AFOD is staffed by three warrant officers (one commander and two flight operations officers), seven operations NCOs, and 23 local national civilians. The detachment is organized into the following sections: ADMINISTRATION, FLIGHT OPERATIONS, FLIGHT DATA PROCESSING, FLIGHT DATA COORDINATION, and NOTICE TO AIRMEN (NOTAM). AFOD's Administrative Section provides for the unit's command, logistical, publications, and personnel requirements. This section consists of the commander, detachment sergeant, civilian supervisor, an administrative/linguist specialist, and a telephone repair specialist.
The FLIGHT OPERATIONS area is the heart of the organization performing most of the unit's flight service missions as described in AFOD's charter documents: US Army Flight Services Procedures, Europe (UR 95-40) and USAREUR Aviation Resources in Search and Rescue Operations (Peacetime) (UR 95-60). The Military Flight Operations Section maintains a military oversight for the other three sections. It is the central coordinating element for all operational issues within AFOD's flight service mission. To facilitate this coordination, the AFOD master switchboard is the significant tool allowing operations personnel almost instantaneous communication or transfer of communication to all agencies in support of the USAREUR aviation mission. The military flight operations section provides centralized control over all emergency actions; such as, US military, civilian, and German civilian medical evacuations, as well as the conduct of search and rescue operations. The German Search and Rescue Center at Munster and the US Air Force's 32nd Air Operations Squadron at Ramstein Air Force Base, are AFOD's partners in the conduct of emergency rescue actions. Flight operations provides the notification of all precautionary landings and aircraft mishaps to USAREUR's Command Center and Safety Office. Other services provided by the flight operations personnel include investigating alleged aircraft violations and near-miss reports, providing technical assistance to USAREUR aviators in mission flight planning, and conducting briefings for newly assigned USAREUR aviators. In addition, military flight operations officers and NCOs provide the military interface for the local national employees who operate the other functional sections.
The FLIGHT DATA PROCESSING section serves as AFOD's primary interface with an airfield's base operations and Army aircrews. All flight plans and related operational messages are routed through this section for processing and dissemination to the appropriate international military or civil air traffic authorities. Civilian specialists review all flight plans to ensure their compliance with applicable flight regulations and safety procedures and provide the aviator with preferred routing. Errors or omissions are discussed with the aviator, if necessary, and corrections are made. This measure of quality control allows AFOD to enter flight plans directly in the air traffic services computer which may submit flight planning data to any desired destination in the world. Additionally, the Flight Data Processing Section maintains AFOD's primary communications link into the international civil and NATO military air traffic structure. This section receives and transmits an average of over 2,000 operational messages daily: submission of flight plans, processing information requests, air warnings, and providing assistance in the search for missing aircraft. AFOD's data lines serve as the Army's single source electronic medium for submitting flight plans and messages to world-wide air traffic authorities.
Once an aircraft becomes airborne, the FLIGHT DATA COORDINATION Section establishes monitoring and procedural tracking of the aircraft's progress. All messages relating to the status of a flight are relayed to this section and processed as required. If an aircraft becomes overdue at its destination by 30 minutes, the flight data coordination personnel will initiate a communications search to locate the aircraft. AFOD's flight data coordinators, normally the first to discover that an aircraft is missing or down, have immediate access to the Army airfields and German air traffic agencies to obtain information to launch search and rescue assets if required. A network of point-to-point phone lines ensures uninterrupted communication service with the other aeronautical organizations within Germany. This section also coordinates USAREUR's requests for special airspace usage requirements and for Army departure/landing slots at international airports. Coordination of landing requests by NATO military and German Police Forces at Army airfields are also handled by the civilian specialist in flight data coordination.
The NOTAM Section operates the US Army Central NOTAM Facility in Europe. This section receives US military, NATO military, the European summary, and International Civil Aviation Organization notices from all over the world, consolidates all information, and publishes a five part summary for Army flight crews operating in Europe. The civilian specialists publish for our customers this unique NOTAM summary which provides the aviator a user friendly format and renders valuable flight information not found in other NOTAM systems. Parts one, two, and three describe the warnings and hazards associated with airfields, status of navigational aids, and status of controlled airspace within Germany. Part four provides hourly updates to the NOTAM summary, while part five allows for the posting of special notices; such as, changes to the various aeronautical information publications. NOTAM summaries are distributed to the major Army airfields and heliports throughout Germany via AFOD's link into the World Wide Web (Internet) or via e-mail. In addition to publishing this excellent product, the specialists maintain AFOD's complete and up to date aeronautical information publications library for all concerned nations as a reference to interpret the European, African, and Middle Eastern flight regulations for USAREUR aviators.
The Department of Forecasting, 32nd Weather Squadron located at Sembach Air Force Base, provides the Army aviator 24 hour weather forecasting and observation services. Aviators can receive weather briefings for any location in 80+ nations by dialing through AFOD's switchboard if unable to contact the weather station directly.
A central figure in the US Army's flight operations in Europe since July 1957, AFOD's reputation for excellence is widely recognized within the European aviation community. For the past 43 years, AFOD's flight services have been instrumental in maintaining the safe and expeditious conduct of aviation operations in Europe. During calendar year 2000 alone, AFOD's contributions to Army aviation amounted to the processing of 22,123 flight plans, the coordination of 47 medical evacuation flights, the initiation of 646 search and rescue coordination operations, as well as 6,343 OTC and telephone NOTAM briefings, the processing of 439 airspace requests, the coordination of 2,266 prior permission required requests, and the processing of 414,492 operational messages. No other unit provides such extensive and professional flight services as does the Army Flight Operations Detachment.
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