McConnell AFB officials always vigilant for drones

Flight crews at McConnell AFB in Wichita prepare a KC-135 tanker for flight. (Photo: KSN/John Asebes)
Flight crews at McConnell AFB in Wichita prepare a KC-135 tanker for flight. (Photo: KSN/John Asebes)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Many Kansans got high-flying new toys for Christmas. They’re called drones. But, there are rules in place about where you can fly them.

The top consideration about flying drones is safety.  And when it comes to safety, flying drones in east Wichita, especially near McConnell Air Force Base is a big no-no. Officials there say if even one drone flies within its airspace, it could temporarily shut down flight operations at the base.

“We fly dozens of missions throughout the country and internationally every day,” said Capt. Nathaniel Beer with Flight Safety operations at McConnell.

But, that doesn’t mean you can fly your drone hear the base.  According to FAA rules, drones can’t be flown recreationally within five miles of an airport without first notifying air traffic controllers.

Beer says safety is a priority at McConnell. Before the base’s KC-135 tankers taxi onto the runway, each plane’s crew spends nearly two hours inspecting the aircraft. He says a drone could damage the plane’s engines and put the crews lives at risk.

“If a drone interferes with our operations, all of a sudden that puts people in having to improvise, to adapt a situation they weren’t exactly prepared for, which is where risk tends to come up or mistakes to tend to happen,” said Beer.

That’s why air traffic control is always monitoring the sky and radar in the area.

“There are situations that come up where we do hold back planes back from taking off or landing in certain situations,” said Capt. Geoff Border with Airfield Operations at McConnell.

Whether its birds or drones, both will shut down the airstrip. And Border says while drones have become popular, they do pose a danger to aircraft at McConnell. That means they’re always on alert.

“So the aircraft that are taking off and landing out of McConnell they can accomplish their mission, that way we can get the job done.”

Breaking FAA regulations could result in your facing thousands of dollars in fines and civil penalties.

Drone laws vary for different uses of drones, click here for the FAA regulations.