Riding a wave of innovation

Staff Sgt. Jason Turton, 21st Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management Operations supervisor, demonstrates how the Peterson Air Force Base Flight Planning Room works Oct. 19, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He created and implemented the room allowing crews to more efficiently plan flights using 42-inch screens and computers instead of digital tablets and paper forms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

Staff Sgt. Jason Turton, 21st Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management Operations supervisor, demonstrates how the Peterson Air Force Base Flight Planning Room works Oct. 19, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He created and implemented the room allowing crews to more efficiently plan flights using 42-inch screens and computers instead of digital tablets and paper forms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

Staff Sgt. Jason Turton, 21st Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management Operations supervisor, stands near an A-10 Thunderbolt II on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Oct. 19, 2017. Turton finds fulfillment in the wide variety of aircraft he works with at Peterson AFB. He created and implemented a Flight Planning Room that allows crews to more efficiently plan their flights using 42-inch screens and computers instead of digital tablets and cumbersome paper forms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

Staff Sgt. Jason Turton, 21st Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management Operations supervisor, stands near an A-10 Thunderbolt II on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Oct. 19, 2017. Turton finds fulfillment in the wide variety of aircraft he works with at Peterson AFB. He created and implemented a Flight Planning Room that allows crews to more efficiently plan their flights using 42-inch screens and computers instead of digital tablets and cumbersome paper forms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing, which operates Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, owns no aircraft, however, its flight line is the second busiest flight line in the Air Force for distinguished visitors, behind Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, according to 21st Space Wing Protocol Office.

Staff Sgt. Jason Turton, Airfield Management Operations supervisor, relishes the challenge of bringing both transient and scheduled aircraft onto the base in the safest, most efficient way. Whether it is a distinguished visitor, military aircraft needing a secure landing facility or high altitude training, or a foreign dignitary, he aims to make their experience at Peterson AFB the best he can.

“There is something about what you need to do to make the whole system work smoothly that appeals to me,” Turton said. “It’s good to see a well-oiled machine work as we get the mission done.”

What the airfield operations management team does is straightforward. Their responsibility is to make sure aircraft and crew are cared for after landing. That includes coordinating offloading the aircraft, transferring crews to get meals as well as various logistic matters.

The variety found in the job is something he finds fulfilling. The wide range of airframes and people he gets to work with is constantly changing, and that’s perfectly fine with him.

“When you walk on for your shift you never know what you will be walking into,” said Turton. “The unknown fluidity of what is thrown at you day-to-day is what challenges you.”

Discovering the best way for the air crews he works to handle their regular tasks led Turton to an innovative approach to flight planning that is gaining traction throughout the Air Force.

The Peterson AFB Flight Planning Room is the product of his observation and innovation. The environment allows crews to undertake the flight planning process in a digital fashion with large screens, allowing the crew to gather around and plan together much more efficiently. Previously crews used printouts and digital tablets.

The room features a pair of large 42-inch touchscreens with a computer system connected to the planning data needed to effectively carry the mission forward. The idea not only simplified the process, but stands to potentially save nearly $100,000 annually, Turton said.

He observed pilots and the way they conducted flight planning, then worked on finding a way to eliminate the cumbersome printed material involved. Using larger screens kept crews from huddling around the small screens of the tablets they were using. Placing the screens and computers in a fixed location was a positive addition as well.

“I thought we could do it better and bigger (than using tablets),” said Turton. “The thought was, ‘How can we better cater to our Air Force customers?’”

The Flight Planning Room idea is showing its worth. Pilots who use it are spreading the word at their home bases. Turton has been contacted by other bases who want to set up planning rooms of their own. The room is in early stages of development as an Air Force-wide project, he said.

Turton plans on continuing his career in the Air Force as an officer. He was accepted to Officer Training School and begins that segment of his career in June 2018. Turton is using practical knowledge of his work environment and applying it in innovative ways to better complete his mission and to move forward in the Air Force.