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Controller Averts Disaster, Saves Lives - (8/20/2009)

CONTACTS: NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

ADDISON, Texas – Going above and beyond to save a pilot’s life, on Aug. 12 Larry Gardner (an Addison Airport controller) observed an aircraft target operating under VFR (Visual Flight Rules, which require no direction from controllers) north of Addison Airport and moving east. During that time another aircraft was flying on routine traffic patrol, flying south along Highway 75.

The aircraft patrolling traffic had previously entered and exited the airspace monitored by controllers at Addison Airport. As the two aircraft appeared to be on a collision course Gardner took the action necessary to ensure safety.

Although neither aircraft was in his delegated area of responsibility, he re-established communications with the aircraft monitoring traffic and alerted him to the impending conflict. Though he instructed the aircraft to conduct a simple maneuver to avoid the other aircraft; that maneuver, in all likelihood, saved both pilots’ lives that day – avoiding what would have been a near-miss or midair collision over a very populated area of Plano, Texas.

Recorded data points reviewed after the flight assist show the two targets unimaginably close – the point of closest proximity had the two aircraft at less than a half-mile apart from one another at the same altitude. In a memo to all air traffic control personnel at the facility an FAA air traffic manager wrote, “Had [the controller] not taken action, the aircraft would have continued straight and the separation would have been nearly impossible to measure, and if they had not hit, it would have been the closest near miss any of us could imagine.”

Said NATCA Southwest Region Vice President Darrell Meachum: “Flight assists are part of a controller’s job, but what this controller did is truly remarkable – very representative of the dedication and commitment to safety that the men and women who serve as controllers bring to the job every day.”

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