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October 12, 2012 // Facility Spotlight: San Juan, Puerto Rico

A 360-degree view of a tropical paradise is what you get if you visit San Juan Tower (SJU). Located in the largest metro area of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, SJU boasts one of the best views in the FAA.

To the east, SJU NATCA members keep an eye on El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. To the south, members can see the mountain chain dividing the northern and southern regions of the island; the downtown skyscrapers are to the west of the tower, and the best part of the view from the tower is to the north. Just on the other side of one of the runways, controllers can see pristine sandy beaches and the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.

Due to its geographical location, SJU is a 24-hour facility. Along with normal nighttime traffic, the Level 7 facility occasionally handles a diversion from the overnight North American-South American flights. During the day, SJU controllers have an even mix of airlines, air-taxi and general aviation operations. They also work with military aircraft in addition to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing and 198th Airlift Squadron. SJU air traffic peaks during the winter months as people travel to San Juan to escape cold temperatures elsewhere.

The facility is 100 percent NATCA membership and proud of it! Membership consists of five developmentals and 19 Certified Professional Controllers, including a member of the NATCA National Safety Committee, Joseph Cardenas. The NATCA family of SJU is diverse; they have a mix of cultures from New York, Tennessee, Florida, California, and Puerto Rico. They are honored to have in their diverse membership a member from PATCO. SJU NATCA Facility Representative Tamara Sabalier said Rafael Cordova is an experienced controller and one of the top trainers in the facility.

“His wisdom and proverbs makes the work-shift to be one full of insightful knowledge and occasional laughter,” she said.

With an average temperature of mid-80s, year round, it’s no wonder that common hobbies amongst the SJU NATCA members are surfing, paddle boarding, and island hopping. Sabalier said that it must have something to do with the view! When not on the water or in the rainforest, some of the members’ time is spent working with their charity, Hogar Para Niños Que Quieren Sonreír. Roughly translated it means “A Home for Children Who Want to Smile.” The members work directly with children with cancer.

“Learn from the past, build for the future” is a saying that NATCA SJU members try to always keep in their minds. That philosophy is working as Sabalier said that current SJU NATCA members always try to provide a welcoming attitude to all new members, and SJU NATCA activism is on the rise. The facility members are trying to achieve trimestral activities including bowling with San Juan Center, as well as dinners and meetings. Sabalier said the SJU NATCA local has a goal to send every member, who wants to be active in the union, to participate in meetings and trainings at the national level.

Sabalier is very proud to be part of the NATCA activism in SJU and to show all the good things that the Union can do for all the members.

“It’s very important for me as a Union rep. that each member experiences the solidarity, the brother-sisterhood that is NATCA,” she said. “I’m very enthusiastic about our new controllers, the new phase and the development of leaders in all levels at NATCA.”

Her parting words:

“Don’t forget about us! We invite you for a visit.”

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