Saturday, December 01, 2012

Happy Anniversary


I went to a birthday party last night for a good friend. I believe I was the youngest person there. And I had been retired the longest. That's how it came out that I was an air traffic controller. It always comes out. Sooner or later.

Being a controller still holds a certain mystique. People always want to hear about it. I mean, there I was in a room full of people that hold doctorates and I'm the one getting all the questions. And when someone asked how long I'd been retired it hit me. Today is December 1st. I've been retired 6 years, today.

So, of course, after basking in the faded glory of having been an air traffic controller last night, I came home, went to sleep and dreamt of airplanes. I was working my favorite sector -- WILKES. North of CLT -- 10,000 feet and below. It's really nothing more than an Approach Control for Hickory, NC -- in the Center (ARTCC). And, of course, some knucklehead at 7,000 decides to make a 360ยบ turn for no apparent reason. And that puts him with another airplane at 7,000. And they almost hit. I have to issue a couple of "immediate" altitude changes and a prayer. And the sector falls apart.

The next thing I know I've got airplanes inside of GSO, CLT and ROA without handoffs. I'm alone of course. How did it ever become the norm that controllers work alone? What a nightmare. I could feel that cold, empty spot in my gut and I knew Panic was trying to rise to the surface again.

But salvation shows up in the form of my buddy Skip. Skip loved working the WILKES sector as much as I did. Our styles were as different as night and day. I was straight by-the-book and he was as laid back as you could be. But we could work together. It was a comfort to see him again. Unfortunately, Skip didn't survive being a controller.

Anyway, pretty soon, the sector is back to normal and an AF tech comes to put some greenery (floral-type stuff) behind the sector to block out the sunlight from the newly installed windows (you could open them, let in fresh air and everything) in the control room. Don't ask me what all that means. I was a controller, not Dr. Freud.

There's no moral to this story. It's just a report on your possible future. Happy Anniversary to me. Thanks for reading.

Don Brown
December 1, 2012

9 comments:

Tango Whiskey said...

Congratulations Don,

May you enjoy another 50 years of life on your FAA pension!

Oh, and sweet dreams.

Kind Regards,

Todd

Tango Whiskey said...

Congratulations on 6 years of retirement Don. May you enjoy 50 more!

Oh - and sweet dreams!

Kind Regards,

Todd

LRod said...

Never dreamt about ATC while I was working. It was probably five years before I started doing it in retirement. Mine seem similar to the one you described, although sometimes they're a variation on the "skipped class all semester, now can't remember where it meets and I have a report due today" anxiety dream.

I've been gone 15 years now (in a couple of weeks) and here's another threshold you can anticipate: even though I have vivid recollections of all aspects of ATC and was a thorough and competent practitioner, in addition to having written extensively about it, I've come to the realization that I probably am no longer relevant in a discussion of modern ATC.

Sure, most of the rules are the same, and the principles certainly are, but the interfaces, both physical and administrative are completely different. Not only would I have difficulty getting up to a fraction of the working speed I might have once had, I'd not be able to navigate the modern work culture at all.

Remember, you heard it here first.

I do have an article about ATC dreams at my website you might find informative.

LRod
ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired (since 19 Dec 1997)

Chuck Adams said...

I love your stories Mr. Brown. Some day soon I too will retire and we can bore the socks off our wives with "war" stories. I look forward to our next meeting......miss you guys,

Chuck

TW said...


Don: I'm 5 1/2 years retired from ZAU and have similar experiences when people find out I worked airplanes. My one nightmare is similar. I'm alone,working a filled up BEARZ arrival sector into ORD when the Tracon stops taking handoffs,the frequency quits working and the supervisor has stepped over to the watch desk to chit chat. Aaarggh! I usually wake up before I can get the sector back to normal.
TW

Dave Starr said...

A day for memories and remembrance of accomplishments to be sure, Don. Thank you for many years of worthwhile reading and "thought provocation". Many, many more my my CSRS colleague.

Roger D. Parish said...

Congratulations, Don. I don't believe that it has been 6 years already. It has been over twelve for me. My, how the time does fly by.

wfparker said...

Happy Anniversary, indeed. I finished my Navy ATC duties in 1978 and my Lockheed aircraft design duties in 2008. Both careers were thoroughly enjoyable - but so is retirement. So, Happy Anniversary as a blogging, picture-taking retiree and thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Open the window?

Does Mitt know that you can open a window in a control room?