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NATCA Honors Sen. Lautenberg With "Sentinel of Safety" Award; Miami Tower Controller Jesse Fisher Wins "President's Award" - (1/31/2006)

WASHINGTON – The National Air Traffic Controllers Association saluted Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., with the second “Sentinel of Safety” award and Miami Tower Controller Jesse Fisher with the annual NATCA “President’s Award” for the most outstanding flight assist of 2005 during a banquet Monday evening.

NATCA created the “Sentinel of Safety” Award as a way to honor a member of the aviation community outside of the NATCA organization who has displayed outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety. The award is open to all leaders of the aviation community, with a special emphasis on those whose leadership on aviation safety issues has been historic, aggressive and courageous.

Lautenberg who served 18 years in the Senate, retired in 2000 and returned in 2002, has made aviation safety a priority. Among his accomplishments, he wrote the Lautenberg runway safety law last year, which holds the Federal Aviation Administration to a deadline to improve runway safety areas at over 280 commercial airports; authored legislation in 2003 to prevent the privatization of the U.S. air traffic control system, which led to a landmark Senate vote against the administration’s privatization plan; and called for hearings on an administration proposal to slash funding for the air traffic control system while calling for a tripling of the system’s capacity.

“We are proud to present this year’s award to Senator Lautenberg for his dedication to the aviation industry and his steadfast and passionate support of every air traffic controller in this country,” NATCA President John Carr said. “Throughout the Senator’s career, he tirelessly supported NATCA and worked on behalf of its membership. It is extremely difficult to sufficiently summarize his career-long dedication to aviation safety on one page because his list of accomplishments is lengthy and his results are impressive.”

Carr on Monday night also presented the NATCA “President’s Award” to Fisher, who earlier in the evening was honored as the co-winner of the Southern Region’s “Archie League Medal of Safety” award. Fisher has worked at Miami Tower since 1991.

Fisher cleared a Jetstar Lockheed L329 for landing on Runway 26 Right. At the same time, he had an American Airlines Boeing 737 taxied into position and holding on runway 26 Left, awaiting takeoff clearance. A second American jet, a 757, which had just arrived on 26 Right, was instructed to cross 26 Left and was advised that the 737 was holding in position. Then, as Fisher scanned the movement area and final approach courses, he saw the Jetstar on short final approach, lined up for landing on 26 Left – the wrong runway. He immediately ordered the Jetstar to execute a go-around, which it did.

“It was absolutely masterful work by this controller,” Carr said. “It was dark. There was three miles visibility with a 600-foot ceiling. Rain obscured both the movement area and final approach courses. And the tower’s ground radar system was in limited mode due to the rain, meaning no runway occupancy alerts – visual or aural – were available to controllers. And then consider that the runways involved are separated by a mere 800 feet, while the tower is two miles away from the runway threshold. This was a really great catch and it probably saved a great number of lives.”

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