Many of you know that I give presentations on many aspects of aviation and enjoy spending time with my pilot friends. I am collecting stories from controllers, flight service specialists, pilots and anyone who has interacted with ATC for many years. These stories will serve as the basis for a book I am writing on the history of Air Traffic Control. I already have all the technical and governmental information, what I need is a look at how the people have interacted over time.
For instance, I knew a lady who worked at Gallup Flight Service named Cindy. Gallup airport was about a mile away from town and it was a very small place – no such thing as taxis or rental cars. Many times pilots would land and really want to run up and get something to eat. Cindy would pull out her car keys and toss them to the pilots with a smile. She told me that more often than not, the pilot would toss her the keys to the aircraft!
Have you had an emergency where ATC played a large part in helping you out? If you are a controller, do you have some amusing memories of the pilots and the day to day operations in your facility? Heaven knows, a large percentage of the people I worked with were (and are) real characters.
Back at Albuquerque Center there were times when traffic was pretty intense followed by predictable lulls. Usually from about 8 am to 10am you heard a continuous stream of voices flow from the operations rooms. There 46 sectors with at least two controllers per sector giving control instructions to pilots or coordinating information with other sectors and facilities. One morning as the surge of traffic was finally starting to let up one of the controllers, Skip, dramatically rolled his chair back from the console and sang/shouted “I’M ABOUT TO LOSE CONTROL AND I THINK I LIKE IT!”
Air Traffic is one of those professions like surgeon…people really don’t think of them as have a sense of humor- after all…it’s supposed to be a very serious, high stress job. The controllers I know have widely diverse personalities, just like many of the pilots I’ve met. Send me your stories, I’d like to hear them. Let me know if you give permission for them to be published. Just use first names – or change the names if you need to, it’s the story that is most important.
—Rose Marie Kern