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NATCA Team and Three Members Win ATCA Awards; Will be Honored at Annual Ceremony Monday - (9/29/2011)

CONTACT: Sarah Dunn, 202-220-9813

WASHINGTON - A Denver Center air traffic controller, a Burlington, Vt., Tower air traffic controller and an Atlanta Center air traffic controller share an unusual experience: each saved a life while at work during the past year.

NATCA congratulates Denver Center air traffic controller Charlie Rohrer and Burlington Air Traffic Control Tower Facility Representative Charles LaBombard on winning the Air Traffic Control Association’s (ATCA) The Andy Pitas Memorial Award and Atlanta Center air traffic controller Derek Bittman on winning The ATCA Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year Award-En Route.

NATCA also congratulates former Phoenix TRACON President Steve Hadley, Phoenix TRACON President Mark Wojtulski, Phoenix TRACON Support Manager Curt Faulk and Phoenix TRACON controllers Bob Little, Chris Smith, James Hansmann and Eric Hanson, of the PHX Optimal Profile Descent (OPD) Design and Implementation Team on winning the David J. Hurley Memorial Award.

The awards will be presented during a luncheon on Monday, Oct. 3 at the ATCA 56th Annual Conference & Exposition in National Harbor, Md.

The Andy Pitas Memorial Award is presented to an individual or group who provided flight assistance that resulted in the safe recovery of an emergency aircraft through the application of exceptional air traffic service. The Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year Award is presented to an individual civilian air traffic control specialist who performed in an exemplary or extraordinary manner in support of air traffic control. The David J. Hurley Memorial Award is presented to an individual working in the field of Aviation Traffic Management for outstanding achievement or contribution in the area of air traffic control collaborative decision making, balancing air traffic demand and capacity, or maximizing airspace and airport use, which has added to the quality, efficiency and/or safety of the Global Airspace Systems.

Rohrer saved the life of a pilot and his wife by instructing the pilot’s wife to an emergency landing route after the pilot became incapacitated from lack of oxygen during the plane’s ascent.

LaBombard applied older procedures he had not practiced in years to help a distressed and disoriented pilot who was unable to make the runway approach, was low on fuel and reversed course into the path of another aircraft on final approach.

Bittman saved the life of a pilot by providing a safe path to the Rome, Ga., runway despite the plane’s malfunctioning navigation equipment, low ceilings and fog, low fuel, and two missed approaches.

The PHX OPD Design and Implementation Team created a project to develop descent profiles on arrivals into Sky Harbor that add quality, efficiency and safety to the airspace system while significantly reducing expenses for airlines. The team worked closely in conjunction with US Airways, Southwest Airlines and Albuquerque Center to make the project a success.

Said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, “We are so proud of our brothers who, in tremendously difficult and unforeseen situations, displayed the outstanding skill and professionalism that defines NATCA.”

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association represents over 20,000 highly skilled controllers, engineers and other safety-related professionals. 

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