We are excited to announce the winners of the 2015 Archie League Medal of Safety Award. Named after the first air traffic controller, Archie League, the awards recognize the important role our members play in keeping the NAS safe and efficient. NATCA members nominate their brothers and sisters who performed an outstanding flight assist during 2014. On Friday, Jan. 9, a panel of judges, including NATCA Safety and Technology Director Dale Wright, AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Safety Advisor and past president Bruce Landsberg, and ALPA Aviation Safety Chair Chuck Hogeman, viewed 53 nominations to decide this year’s winners.
Parker Corts, Anchorage Center
On Aug. 8, Corts had cleared an aircraft to the Lynns intersection to begin an approach into Juneau, but the pilot was unable to find the intersection. Corts gave the pilot vectors and altitudes to help him stay on course. However, the pilot continued to deviate and at one point turned towards higher terrain. The pilot finally mentioned that his equipment appeared to be malfunctioning, so Corts quickly used another aircraft to relay several transmissions, keeping the aircraft in distress out of dangerous terrain before the pilot was able to safely land at an alternate airport.
Travis Arnold, Omaha TRACON
Arnold had vectored an aircraft for an ILS approach into Lincoln on Dec. 13, when he noticed the pilot passing across the final approach course. After issuing a corrective heading, the pilot acknowledged but continued to turn the wrong direction. Communication was temporarily lost, but when it was reestablished, Arnold learned that the pilot’s instruments were not working correctly. Arnold issued no gyro turns and closely monitored the aircraft’s altitude. His instincts and quick thinking ensured the pilot landed safely at his destination.
Joseph Rodewald, Potomac Consolidated TRACON
On Oct. 5, Rodewald noticed two aircraft squawking VFR on what appeared to be converging courses at the same altitude. Although he was not talking to either aircraft, Rodewald broadcasted in the blind in hopes that one or both aircraft were monitoring his frequency. When the aircraft were two miles apart, one of them acknowledged. Rodewald continued to call traffic until the aircraft reported the other in sight. At this time they were less than a mile and indicated 100 feet apart. Rodewald’s experience and professionalism ensured the safety of the two VFR aircraft.
Great Lakes Region
Justin Krenke, Adam Helm, and Mike Ostrander, Green Bay ATCT/TRACON
On Feb. 13, Krenke, Helm, and Ostrander helped an aircraft in distress for more than 40 minutes before the pilot crash-landed. As the aircraft descended for the approach, ice began to accumulate and the pilot reported his gyro had spun. Ostrander quickly coordinated with Minneapolis Center so the pilot could climb out of icing conditions. Helm pulled weather from other airports to see if there was anywhere else the pilot could land. The pilot declared an emergency to descend below the minimum vectoring altitude in the area in an attempt to decrease the ice accumulation. Krenke communicated with the pilot the entire time, informing him of obstructions and vectoring him over the airport multiple times before they lost communications and the pilot landed, sustaining only minor injuries.
New England Region
Kelly Eger and Sarah LaPorte Ostrander, Boston ATCT
During the evening push on Sept. 5, a JetBlue aircraft missed the assigned departure time and had to be taken out of sequence. Eger routed the aircraft around the airport and instructed the pilots to hold short of Runway 22R The pilot responded correctly so Eger then cleared an aircraft for takeoff on runway 22 right. Shortly after, LaPorte Ostrander, who was training someone on ground control, alerted Eger that the JetBlue aircraft was not stopping at Runway 22R, where there was an aircraft taking off. Eger quickly stopped JetBlue right before the ASDE-X alert went off, avoiding a possible collision.
Northwest Mountain Region
Mark Haechler, Seattle Center
On Nov. 1, Haechler, a trainee at the time, was working a sector when he noticed an aircraft was unable to climb. The pilot reported icing and downdrafts, so Haechler declared an emergency and guided the aircraft to lower terrain. The aircraft was not DME-equipped, so Haechler vectored the pilot onto the final approach course manually. The pilot continuously turned west, and each time Haechler would correct him to put him back on course. Eventually the pilot broke out of the weather and reported the airport in sight.
Sarina Gumbert, Orlando TRACON
In the late morning of Oct. 24, an aircraft took off from Orlando International Airport and contacted Gumbert upon departure. During his initial contact with Gumbert, the pilot did not state his assigned heading and Gumbert quickly verified. Although the pilot stated the correct heading, Gumbert realized he was not turning to his correct heading and was instead turning into traffic departing to the east. Gumbert immediately issued a new heading as the pilot was flying directly into the departure path of another aircraft. The pilot complied and narrowly avoided the other departing aircraft. Gumbert’s proactive approach to the pilot’s actions helped mitigate a dangerous situation.
Hugh McFarland, Houston TRACON
On Sept. 16, a VFR-rated pilot became stuck on top of solid IFR weather at 8,500 feet. The weather was almost 8,000 feet thick and extended hundreds of miles around the Houston area. The pilot had no choice but to descend through it. McFarland, a pilot himself, guided the pilot through IMC conditions for 20 minutes. He helped the pilot load his GPS with the approach headings, constantly reminded the pilot of his airspeed, bank angle in the turn, to stay calm, to trim the aircraft, to ensure his carburetor heat was on to prevent icing, and everything else he could think of to ensure the pilot landed safely. After McFarland lost radar contact with the aircraft, he continued to provide the position of the airport relative to the pilot’s last known position until the pilot safely landed.
Western Pacific Region
Jesse Anderson, Brackett Field ATCT
On December 7, Anderson was working several aircraft when he noticed one of them had turned towards Cable Airport, a private, uncontrolled airport. Anderson quickly began issuing traffic alerts as he attempted to have the aircraft turn away from Cable. The aircraft inadvertently joined the downwind for Cable and was in conflict with all three aircraft in the pattern. Anderson quickly directed the aircraft out of Cable’s traffic pattern and began to turn the pilot towards Brackett Field again. Anderson’s supervisor then instructed him to direct the pilot to climb to 2,500 feet, a position that resulted in the pilot looking directly into the sun. Anderson continued to help the pilot reorient himself and get the airport in sight. He remained calm and professional and still managed to help the noticeably shaken pilot land safely.