Informing and connecting with the members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, who work to safely handle 70,000 flights daily and nearly one billion passengers annually.
Ep42 Greensboro Controller Ensures Safety of Airport Threatened by Drone
At approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 9, 2021, Greensboro ATCT (GSO) member Noah Walker was working the approaches into Greensboro, N.C., from the tower cab, as the positions were combined and the radar position was moved to the tower. Walker was lining up a Lifeguard aircraft to the final for Runway 14. Just before he instructed the pilot to contact the tower, he noticed lights that appeared to be another aircraft in conflict.
Walker asked the tower controller if he was talking to an aircraft, but the controller confirmed he was not. Walker determined it was a drone flying near the arrival corridor for runway 14. Since the controllers could not predict the erratic behavior of this very large drone, they had no choice but to suspend operations at GSO until they could be reasonably sure the drone no longer presented a threat.
Walker’s actions on this night prevented a collision and ensured the safety of the users in the airspace. NATCA is proud to recognize his professionalism and skill to identify the hazard even though it did not appear on radar. It led one pilot to comment on frequency, “Thanks for looking out for us.” Walker will be honored on June 17 in New Orleans with the Archie League Medal of Safety Award for the Southern Region.
Ep43 Potomac TRACON Trio Helps Student, Instructor, After Total Engine Loss
By Sept. 15, 2020, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, air carrier traffic volume was greatly reduced, presenting opportunities for many general aviation pilots - and students, with their instructors - to do takeoffs and landings at major airports. One such flight, a Mooney M20 piloted by a student with an instructor, departed runway 1 right at Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD).
Just a short time later, as the Mooney was at 4,600 feet, the aircraft suffered a total engine failure. The choice to be near IAD turned out to be a most advantageous decision.
“I think because of that lack of full airline schedules, I think this was a nationwide thing; I think people were taking their GA airplanes to places they dreamed of going and this was a good example,” said Potomac TRACON (PCT) member Joe Mash, who talked with the pilot and worked with fellow PCT members Jason Dunaway and Chris Rhodes to help the flight return safely to IAD. “(The emergency) could not have happened at a better time or place, that is for sure. Lucky for them.”
Mash, Dunaway, and Rhodes will be honored with the 2021 Eastern Region Archie League Medal of Safety Award on June 17 in New Orleans.
Ep41: Three Kansas City Controllers Aid Yak 18T Pilot Experiencing Fuel, Weather Challenges
On a Thursday afternoon in September 2020 in the Prairie Area of Kansas City Center (ZKC), just six months into the COVID pandemic, the facility was staffed with small teams of controllers working their shifts together for safety but still handling busy traffic volumes. ZKC member Ingrid “Inga” Owens was working a Yak 18T that was headed north toward Nebraska from Texas. The pilot encountered two big problems.
First, he was flying this aircraft for the first time, delivering it to its owner. It was burning fuel at a rate exceeding what he was told it would, leaving him with a shortage that led him to declare an emergency. Second, he encountered IFR weather conditions in western Kansas airspace, with 200-foot minimum ceilings. He was flying beneath the glideslope, which is unusual for hitting the ILS. Owens had fellow ZKC member Taylor Rosenbaum as her D-side controller. Member Brett Rolofson was working as the controller-in-charge.
“I remember at one point saying to Taylor, ‘I feel like this guy’s going to be a problem,’” Owens said. “I was just super relieved that when we asked if he was IFR-qualified, the answer was yes, because my fear was that he wasn’t and then I don’t know what we would have done.”
Owens, Rosenbaum, and Rolofson worked to help the pilot to a safe landing. For their efforts, they will receive the Archie League Medal of Safety Award for the Central Region on June 17 in New Orleans.
Ep40: LAX Controllers on Midnight Shift Assist FedEx Crew's Emergency Landing Without Left Gear
Numerous challenges presented themselves on the midnight shift of Aug. 19, 2020, with an inbound FedEx Boeing 767 on approach to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that had a retracted left main landing gear. LAX members Jeremy Hroblak, Scott Moll, and C.J. Wilson, through their skill and professionalism, were able to address each of the challenges, contributing to the most successful outcome possible. For their efforts, the three members will be honored on June 17 in New Orleans with the Archie League Medal of Safety Award for the Western Pacific Region.
The captain of the flight, Bob Smith, wrote a letter describing the event from his perspective. He concluded it by stating, “As we say at FedEx to a team member for a job well done … Bravo Zulu! Thank you for your professionalism, and for your significant contribution to an aircraft incident that, because of your actions, ended with a safe landing and minimal damage to our aircraft.”
Ep39: Houston Air Traffic Controller Provides Lifeline to Pilot Struggling in Bad Weather
Houston TRACON (I90) member Joe Wright was working the Thursday evening arrival streams into Houston Hobby (HOU) and nearby Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base (EFD) when the pilot of a Piper Cherokee struggled to stay on the localizer for EFD and then lost his gyroscope in IFR conditions. The pilot worked to get back onto the localizer, but soon descended into a tight, steep turn. Wright saw his altitude drop rapidly, starting from 2,400 feet, then to 2,000 feet. “I asked him, ‘are you OK?’ and he said, ‘I don’t think we’re OK,’” Wright said. “That’s when I knew it was a dire situation.
“He seemed a little rattled and rightfully so. I knew, in my 26 years of aviation experience, with no gyro and those weather conditions, if you get disoriented it can go bad very quickly. My intention was to do the very best I could for him control-wise, but also keep him calm. If I got tense, it may have caused him to have a little bit of a problem in concentration.” What happened next was the incredible, safe conclusion to what Wright called the most traumatic event in his career, which he plans to retire from soon after receiving the 2021 Southwest Region Archie League Medal of Safety Award on June 17 in New Orleans.
Ep38: Pilot Loses Pressure But Gains Helping Hand From Boston Center Controller
“Eight Hotel Romeo is descending, I’ve lost my cabin pressure.” The pilot of a Socata TBM-850 single-turboprop aircraft was flying north toward Burlington, Vt. Boston Center (ZBW) controller Casey Allan was conducting on-the-job training. But what first seemed like a normal flight in their airspace soon turned serious with the onset of hypoxia signs. Allan took over the sector. “I believe he got up to 33,000 feet. He climbed pretty rapidly for an aircraft like the TBM, and it started a right-hand turn,” Allan said. “Once we saw the indication of a turn, my first thought was, ‘it’s going to go into a spin.’”
What happened next was expert handling of the flight to ensure its eventual safe landing at Stewart International Airport in New York. For his efforts, Allan has been named the winner of the 2021 New England Region Archie League Medal of Safety Award, presented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.