Special Recognition Award
This year, NATCA is including those air traffic control facilities in its awards recognition which served as the “Eye in the Storm” by maintaining the National Airspace System during a tropical storm season that produced 26 named storms, 14 of which became deadly hurricanes. While these swirling masses of destruction devastated the homes and lives of hundreds of air traffic controllers, NATCA members put the safety of the public first by displaying an extraordinary level of skill and selflessness during the evacuation, relief and recovery efforts.
Many of the air traffic control facilities handled large volumes of traffic before the arrival of the hurricanes in order to ensure the area’s occupants were safely evacuated. In Beaumont, Texas, some controllers worked 19 consecutive hours, putting their safety last, knowing their families may have to evacuate without them. Likewise, after the storms hit, controllers returned to the facility to assist in rescue operation despite their own personal losses. At New Orleans Tower, of the 18 controllers, 10 had no homes left and many worked as long as 20 straight hours to assist in the relief efforts, with many controllers sleeping on cots at the facility. At the height of the rescue operation, this facility ran about four times the number of operations it usually has in a normal day.
Facilities hugging the Gulf Coast all worked a record level of operations. At Baton Rouge Tower, controllers used taxiways as parking lots for helicopters, as they juggled around 922 daily operations, about three times as much as their usual 300-350. One hour west of Baton Rouge at Lafayette Tower, controllers who normally worked around 325 operations a day were now handling 1,200 in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Not only were controllers handling a wide range and large volume of military aircraft, but they were also interacting with pilots who were unfamiliar with the airfield.
The 2005 hurricane season is one that this nation will never forget. And NATCA didn’t want to forget the efforts of its members who worked diligently to keep the NAS operational. These controllers rose above the ordinary call to duty and demonstrated a level of skill, courage and professionalism in challenging and chaotic times, which ultimately helped save the lives of many sick, injured and elderly evacuees. Their efforts are an outstanding example of the lengths NATCA members will go to in order to protect the safety of their system and their communities.
While the union is aware of the huge outpouring of humanitarian relief its membership provided, including collecting over $100,000 to assist those in need, opening their homes to storm victims and delivering essential supplies hundreds of miles away, the Archie League Award focuses on aviation safety. This award acknowledges those facilities which helped uphold controllers’ high sense of integrity and safety by keeping the system operational by putting the needs of the public ahead of their own to ensure the safety of the air traffic system. And the winners are:
Baton Rouge Tower – Hurricane Katrina
Beaumont-Port Arthur Tower – Hurricane Rita
Gulfport Tower – Hurricane Katrina
Jackson Tower – Hurricane Katrina
Lafayette Tower – Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita
Lake Charles Tower – Hurricane Rita
Meridian RAPCON Tower – Hurricane Katrina
Mobile Tower – Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans Lakefront Tower – Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans-Louis Armstrong International Tower – Hurricane Katrina
D.W. Hooks Tower – Hurricane Rita
Ft. Lauderdale Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Ft. Lauderdale Executive Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Fort Myers Regional Southwest Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Ft. Pierce Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Houston Center – Hurricane Rita
Houston Hobby Tower – Hurricane Rita
Houston Intercontinental Tower – Hurricane Rita
Houston TRACON – Hurricane Rita
Miami Center – Hurricane Wilma
Miami Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Palm Beach Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Tamiami Tower – Hurricane Wilma
Vero Beach Tower – Hurricane Wilma
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