Behind the Takeoff: Inside the Airside Operations Division

Howdy, readers! Welcome to the first post in a series that will take you on a ride behind the scenes of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). We’ll explore the various Department of Aviation Divisions that keep this bustling airport running. In this installment, we delve right into the heart of our airfield, with insights from Katlyn Fohn, one of the Airside Operations (Ops) Supervisors at AUS. Katlyn sheds light on the crucial role her team plays in ensuring safety, efficiency, and seamless operations.

First things first: What exactly does Airside Operations do?

At the core of Katlyn’s responsibilities lies a commitment to the safety and security of the airfield. “Our primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of the airfield and continuity of airport operations,” she explains. This is achieved through a variety of tasks that include inspections of runways and taxiways, managing airline gate assignments, coordinating with airlines and ground handlers, overseeing fueling operations, and enforcing strict safety regulations.

How does Airside Ops contribute to safety at AUS?

The division mantra "Safety, Compliance, and Availability," established by a longtime former team member, perfectly embodies the mission of the Airside Ops Division. The team operates under strict procedures and protocols to ensure compliance with safety standards. Regular inspections, continuous staff training, and close collaboration with regulatory agencies ensure AUS remains up-to-date on safety regulations and best practices. The Airside Ops team also works with airport tenants, assisting them in developing and implementing their own set of practices within leased areas to promote safety awareness across all areas of the airfield. One thing is clear: the guiding principle for the team is an ultimate commitment to maintaining the highest standards of safety.

What is a day in the life like?

A typical day for Katlyn is far from monotonous. It involves conducting audits, attending routine meetings about ongoing and future construction, and supporting her Airside Specialists as they handle gate coordination, aircraft movement, airfield and Air Operations Area (AOA) inspections, airfield maintenance coordination, construction activities, and more. The real challenge, however, comes during occasional periods of Irregular Operations (IROPS). “Our team often handles an influx of unexpected aircraft and incidents, ranging from diversions to disabled aircraft, inclement weather, and equipment failures,” Katlyn notes. As an airport that sees a high volume of diversions, AUS is always on alert. The team relies on contingency plans and effective communication with tenants and the Air Traffic Control Tower to manage these situations efficiently.



What is the best part of the role?

“I enjoy the camaraderie with my Airside coworkers the most and the unique opportunity to work with airplanes every day,” Katlyn says enthusiastically. “It's an exciting role that constantly challenges me, requiring extensive research and dedication to improve both my division and the operations at AUS. Each day brings new scenarios to tackle, keeping the job dynamic and engaging.”

What are the skills and qualifications needed for this team?

For those aspiring to join the airside operations team, Katlyn highlights the importance of adaptability and motivation. “Situations are rarely black and white. The environment is constantly changing, requiring us to adapt as events unfold; By maintaining motivation for continuous learning and utilizing the tools provided, we can make informed choices in the best interest of safety and operations,” she explains. Strong communication and teamwork skills are crucial, as is the ability to make and follow complex decisions. While a background in aviation and airport regulations is beneficial, it’s not mandatory. “If you have the proper self-discipline, we can teach you the knowledge,” she assures those interested.

Any advice for joining the team?

Katlyn’s advice to aspiring airside professionals is to do their homework. “Research the airport, its runways and taxiways, terminal layout, and mission statement,” she advises. “Look into what certificate they operate under, such as Part 139, and study the associated documents that the FAA provides on their website,” she added. The takeaway: understanding the airport’s operations, showing initiative, and preparing for the job are the first steps toward securing a position.

How do you stay motivated?

In a fast-paced and often stressful environment, Katlyn stays motivated by focusing on the impact of her work. “Knowing my work directly contributes to the well-being of passengers and the smooth functioning of the airport is rewarding,” she shares. Self-care and stress management techniques, including mindfulness and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, are also essential. Overall, the sense of teamwork and camaraderie among the Airside Operations Division fosters a positive and resilient work environment, allowing Katlyn and the rest of the division to approach every shift with renewed energy and excitement for what the day will bring.

Stay tuned for more insights as we continue to explore the divisions that make AUS the airport of choice for Central Texas. From airside operations to guest services, each team plays a vital role in ensuring that Austin-Bergstrom International Airport remains a safe, efficient, and welcoming gateway to the world.