There are times when the title may seem questionable, especially when the controller’s reality and mine were different. But for the most part, our tax dollars are pretty well invested in the ATC system. This year was my third as one of the judges for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) Archie League Awards. This prestigious award honors the nation’s first air traffic controller and recognizes recipients for going above and beyond what is expected.
In reviewing the submissions you can’t help but be impressed with the talent and commitment these controllers have under extreme pressure when lives are literally hanging in the balance. Each FAA region is allowed one recipient. Top honors this year went to a team of controllers from the Southern Region and to a King Air flight instructor on his cell phone who provided guidance to private pilot Doug White when his pilot died of a heart attack while the aircraft was on climb out. You can hear it all on ASF’s Real Pilot Story - Pinch Hitting a King Air.
Audio of the other saves is also available. It’s worth listening to some of the predicaments that pilots get themselves into.
Air Safety Foundation provided additional recognition with Flight Assist Commendations to other controllers who clearly saved lives of pilots who were in trouble. Rescues included VFR into IMC, icing entanglements and mechanical mayhem.
I believe FAA should incentivize controllers for becoming pilots and give hiring preference to candidates who are already pilots. Year after year we see saves that could not have been accomplished without some in-cockpit expertise. Not everyone will agree but from my side of the radar it sure makes sense.
I’ve had several occasions where it was pretty clear that the guy or gal on ground knew exactly what I was facing and was extremely helpful in solving a problem. What about you?