Archie League Awards Honor Controllers For Grace Under Pressure

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"A calm voice on the radio keeps a scared pilot from becoming further rattled." So noted Mark Harris, an air traffic controller with the Anchorage TRACON, as he recalled a day last October when he helped a pilot cope with a cockpit full of smoke. Harris was one of 11 controllers honored last week with an Archie League Medal of Safety Award, bestowed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association during a safety forum in Las Vegas. The awards, named after the first air traffic controller, honor the efforts of those who remain calm and focused while helping to resolve dangerous situations. A special NATCA President's Award went to air traffic controller John Charlton of Lake Charles, La., who gave extra attention to a nervous student pilot who had unsuccessfully attempted to land twice. After alerting fire and rescue in order to be prepared for any outcome, Charlton, who is a pilot himself, coached the student through two more approaches till she made a successful landing on her fourth try.

Other controllers helped a pilot whose engine died over dark terrain at night, a crew stricken with hypoxia, and a pilot who was trying to navigate a complex and unfamiliar instrument approach in the mountains, with inadequate fuel for a go-around. In every case the controller's advice and professionalism contributed to a successful outcome. For more stories about the award winners and audiotapes from the events, check out this AVweb podcast.