Last night in Atlanta, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association capped its annual Communicating for Safety Conference with a great celebration of the best in Air Traffic Control: the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards.
The Archie awards--named after the first air traffic controller--recognize the year’s best examples of extraordinary work ensuring safety during a flight emergency. I am very proud of all of the 2012 honorees:
- Alaskan Region Kristina Kurtz
- Central Region Todd Mariani
- Eastern Region Matt Reed
- Great Lakes Region Guy Lieser and Steve McGreevy
- New England Region Chris Henchey and Ryan Workman
- Northwest Mountain Region (co-winner) Charlie Rohrer
- Northwest Mountain Region (co-winner) Ken Greenwood, Josh Haviland and Ryan Herrick
- Southern Region Alvin Kent
- Southwest Region Frank Fisher and Greg Fleetwood
- Western Pacific Region Kevin McLaughlin
In congratulating the winners last night, Acting Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta reminded us that despite the awardees' commitment to safety and their extraordinary calm under dramatic circumstances, air traffic control relies on a team:
"Vince Lombardi once said, 'Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.' And so it goes with air traffic control. Even though only a handful of controllers are being recognized tonight, the fine work of thousands of controllers is what helps to make America’s airspace the safest in the world."
And one of the dramatic saves that earned Archie League recognition exemplifies that teamwork. On December 11, 2011, Ken Greenwood, Ryan Herrick, and Josh Haviland of the Seattle Terminal Radar Approach Control combined to help pilot Jim Lawson descend through thick clouds from 3,200 feet and land his Mooney MO20 at Washington's Renton Airport, without any fuel. It's really a terrific story, and I urge you to watch the video below from the Today Show.
First and foremost, DOT and the FAA are safety agencies. In the last 35 months—that’s almost three years—more than two billion people have flown on U.S. commercial aircraft without a fatal accident. And the nation's air traffic controllers, like this year's Archie winners, are on the front lines of our mission to ensure pilot and passenger safety. Thankfully, most of us who travel America's skies don't need to draw upon the heightened vigilance and skill of our controllers, but when a situation turns dangerous, it's good to know that these men and women are on the job.