Oshkosh Rookie Had Fantastic Experience
Friday, August 09, 2013

Moline, Ill. (MLI) Tower NATCA Member Luke Pytlarz had always wanted to work AirVenture Oshkosh, but didn’t have a chance to bid for a spot in the “World’s Busiest Tower” because he wasn’t yet eligible. 

A controller for two years, Pytlarz received a valid Control Tower Operator (CTO) certificate this year, qualifying him to put in a bid to work at Oshkosh (OSH).

When he found out he had been selected to work the event, he was excited and nervous – two emotions that would stay with him through day one of the airshow.

“I was very excited to jump in, but I was nervous because the expectations of the controllers are so high,” he said. “I knew I really had to step up to meet the expectations.”

All controllers, who wear the iconic pink “Oshkosh Tower” shirts at the event, receive the Oshkosh training manual about a month before the show. Pytlarz said he prepared to meet those high expectations by studying his manual from the moment he received it until the day of the event.

Pytlarz was amazed by his first Oshkosh experience. He said it was a fantastic experience, and he has nothing but great things to say about it. He was most impressed by the team of controllers and the professionalism of the pilots.

“The teamwork in the tower is fantastic,” he said. “Communication and coordination was done very well. The pilots were amazing and do a really great job listening to the controllers, which is imperative.”

From left to right: J.B. Nelson, Jerry Hough, Luke Pytlarz and Mike Sparks.

He was also impressed by how welcoming and complimentary people attending the show were to the “pink shirts,” especially because of the controversy this year over the FAA’s decision to have EAA pay for the controllers’ services the week of the show. Pytlarz said at least six people stopped to shake his hand and those of his teammates, and thank them for their work.

“The people were all very positive, had nothing but compliments,” he said.

The most challenging part of working AirVenture for Pytlarz was the difference in the airspace and traffic volume between his facility, MLI, and OSH.

“Moline is a smaller regional airport, so they don’t have a fraction of air traffic that Oshkosh did,” he said. “Also, Oshkosh is Class Delta airspace and Moline is (Class) Charlie airspace, so procedures are different.”

Pytlarz’s favorite moment of the show was working at the mobile platforms right next to the runway because he got to see the planes up close and personal. 

“It gives you a perspective on how incredible the planes are,” he said.

Pytlarz said it was an honor that he got to go and work alongside some of the best controllers in the country. Though he was a rookie, he said the veteran “pink shirts” were very welcoming and willing to teach. Watching the veterans work also inspired him.

“My team leader has been working Oshkosh for 20 years,” said Pytlarz. “He had incredible knowledge of plans and how to work the event.”