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March 18, 2016 // Professionalism Up, Distractions Down

Cellphone charging stations are becoming more common at air traffic facilities across the country, to help keep distractions out of the operational environment.

These hubs serve as a place for controllers to safely store their personal electronic devices while they are on position, so they can stay focused on working flights in-and-out of their facility’s airspace. That’s why Potomac TRACON (PCT) recently installed one.

“We want to hold our heads high and show that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Brandon Miller, NATCA PCT Facility Representative. “We have a responsibility to the flying public, and we want to present ourselves as professionals, 24/7.”

The station is located in a common area right outside the office of Traffic Management Officer Jim Estes, who decorated it with a Turn Off Tune In sticker. “I see a lot of activity; it’s getting a lot of use,” Estes said. “It’s been an education piece for folks, and people take it very seriously.”

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Smith (left) and Miller (right) show off the new charging station.

Turn Off Tune In, one of five programs in the FAA-NATCA Foundations of Professionalism initiative, is targeted at raising awareness of the safety impact of workplace distractions, and has helped the controller workforce in this effort on a national scale. Last September, the workforce at Denver Center installed a similar charging station.

Peer-to-peer support among controllers while on position has been key to maintaining a high level of professionalism at PCT. And the collaboration between controllers and managers has also been robust.

“We have honest, open dialogue,” Air Traffic Manager Steve Smith said. “Turn Off Tune In and the other programs help us enhance safety and create a positive place to work. It’s definitely a morale booster. That’s how we keep professionalism up and distractions down.”

Smith and Miller agree that all of the Foundations of Professionalism programs – Turn Off Tune In, Professional Standards, the Air Traffic Safety Action Program, Fully Charged and Respect – are working effectively and in combination. And they also bring consistency to the messaging that controllers receive.

“It all works so seamlessly for every controller and frontline manager,” Miller said. “Everything we do is structured by these foundations and the way we present ourselves professionally.”

This article has been published jointly by NATCA and the FAA. For more information on distractions and safety, visit the Turn Off Tune In website.

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