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Salt Lake City Controllers Prepared for Their Olympic Event - (1/31/2002)

SALT LAKE CITY – Dozens of National Air Traffic Controllers Association members continue to play an integral role in carrying out an immensely complex plan for dealing with air traffic at the Winter Olympics.

“Much like the Olympic athletes, the Salt Lake City controllers have prepared for this event for many years,” NATCA President John Carr said. “The events of September 11 were uniquely challenging in regards to the safety and security of the system but our men and women are professionals who never missed a beat, including at our Salt Lake City facilities.”

Since security interests have changed, planners have developed an entirely new mindset in a short period of time, according to Lee Wheeler, a Salt Lake City Center controller and the facility’s representative on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Olympic coordination team. “We have had around 45 days to work on the current plan,” he said. “We’ve made sure to have the right people in place, provide the right opportunity to train and maintain a resource perspective to take care of any equipment needs. It’s a multi-faceted approach.”

“There are huge amounts of behind-the-scenes planning, especially since September 11,” Salt Lake City Center Facility Representative Doug Scadden added. “They rewrote everything.” At Salt Lake City Center, the atmosphere is one of apprehension. Security is tight and much of the ATC plan is top secret. But Wheeler said he’s been pleased with the cooperative working relationship he’s enjoyed with local and regional FAA management. “We’re the safety net. Security and procedures are a big part of what we do here. We’re making sure controllers are equipped and trained to provide the best service possible.”

Salt Lake Tower Facility Representative Alex Silva said controllers working the tower and TRACON are ready. “There is apprehension but it’s not in the forefront. We have a job to do and we will handle all traffic safely and securely.” NATCA Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Carol Branaman stated: “All of our facilities have prepared for some time. The people we have working this event are dedicated and operating in a state of flexibility to handle anything. Our goal is making sure this Olympic event reflects well on America.”

Executing such an ambitious and vitally important Olympic and national security role, Scadden added, “will be a testament to the hard work of controllers nationwide. We’ll get the aircraft in here at the last part of their flights but keeping the skies safe is a job all of the men and women across the country will perform.” Concluded Carr: “I promise you, Salt Lake City controllers will bring home the gold in aviation safety.”

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