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posted Aug 20, 2011, 12:48 PM by Brent Messer   [ updated Aug 20, 2011, 12:53 PM ]
“Lancer zero-six, two-niner you are cleared for touch and go”. For most passengers in the terminal at the Gainesville Regional Airport, this would not mean anything, until moments later, when a Lockheed P-3 Orion roared in, touched down on the main runway and then without stopping, accelerated and took off again. Despite having scheduled airline service to only three destinations, Gainesville is a busy airport. In addition to the Canadair Regional Jets and ATR-72s used by the airlines, the airport also handles significant amounts of general aviation and military traffic. For this reason, the job of the people who work in air traffic control is essential.

On 14 April 2011, members of the Gainesville Composite Squadron got to experience this first hand. In groups of six, both cadets and officers climbed the narrow stairwell to the top of the airport's control tower to watch the tower crew direct traffic in the air as well as on the ground. While a US Airways Express
CRJ 200 operated by PSA was inbound to land on Runway 29, Cessnas and other small aircraft needed to be directed to and from Runway 25.

Despite recent events at other airports, there was no time for sleeping. Gainesville's tower only operates part time – it shuts down overnight, and Gainesville Regional Airport, like a majority of the airports around the world, operates as an uncontrolled airfield. Pilots will still continue to use the tower's radio frequency, however, to state positions and intentions in order to coordinate safe takeoffs and landings.

Right: A PSA Canadair Regional Jet takes off from Gainesville en-route to Charlotte
Left: Cadets in the control tower