Saturday, March 05, 2011

Hey! You! New Guy!



I suspect I’ll have more than a few “new” controllers show up at this site in the coming days. James Fallows has caused me to put my safety hat back on this past week so I’ve been running around with my brain on fire, like the old days. I plan on dousing that fire this weekend. There’s a reason I retired...

But before I do. If you’re a controller that hired on after 2005 and you never had the “pleasure” of working with (or around) me... I’ve got something to say.

If you don’t understand non-radar, you don’t understand air traffic control.

Remember -- I was a young controller once. I know what you’re thinking.

At first, you don’t even care how it all happens. Just let me talk to some airplanes so I can show you what I’ve got.

That will pass. Trust me. Probably about the first time you really scare yourself when you’re alone.

I don’t know how this generation will ever learn about the building blocks of air traffic control. I really don’t. But I did -- somehow. And it wasn’t the FAA that taught them to me. It was the profession -- other controllers.

”“What did they call non-radar before radar?” Answer: Air Traffic Control. Non-radar is the foundation of all air traffic control.”

Maybe you’ll have to play the home version of air traffic control. I don’t know. I just know you need to know it. Air traffic control isn’t a video game -- no matter how much the FAA makes it look like one.

Don Brown
March 5, 2011

2 comments:

Wayne said...

Nice post. I love the question "What did they call non-radar before radar?". This drive home the point that you NEED to know the foundation. Radars do fail.

Air Traffic Mike said...

Dear Wayne and Don,

Worse yet, power systems fail. When I was working at MEMT, the STARS system was deployed. One of the selling points of safety was, if MEM radar went down, all we had to do was click on the "toolbar", select the ZME Byhalia radar site, and we'd continue radar operations at the airport.

One fine day, a contractor cut a power line to the TRACON. The backup genrators, for whatever reason, failed to come online. While the feed from the Byhalia long range radar site was available, the power needed to operate the STARS scopes in the TRACON was not.

What do you call a "radar operation" without radar scopes?

Non-radar.

Don, keep up the good work. Great job in "The Atlantic" this week.

Best wishes.

Mike