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James Sawyer and Kevin Winn, Boston ATCT

The intricacies of Boston’s Logan Airport are well known to both pilots and controllers and others who operate various equipment around the tarmac. It’s a small layout, with many crossings of taxiways and runways. Extreme focus is essential at all times, because even the most innocent of movements can quickly turn into a potential incident.

Such was the case on the morning of Aug. 8, 2005. Logan Tower controllers were using Runways 22 Left and 27 for landing and Runway 22 Right for departures. The ground controller on duty was Kevin Winn. His veteran colleague on local control was James Sawyer. The simultaneous actions of both men involving the same aircraft helped prevent a potential disaster.

A Federal Express jet, an Airbus 300, operated by a non-pilot – likely a mechanic – requested taxi instructions from the FedEx ramp to perform a maintenance procedure called a high-powered run-up. Winn instructed the aircraft to proceed via taxiway kilo and hold short of Taxiway Charlie. Charlie turns right 90 degrees off kilo and intersects Runway 22R, so Winn gave the FedEx some very important instructions.

Winn told the FedEx to make the right turn onto taxiway Charlie and clearly added that the jet should hold short of Runway 22R. The jet’s operator acknowledged the transmission, but then proceeded to do the very thing he was instructed to avoid – cross Runway 22R. Winn immediately caught it: “FedEx 661 STOP!” He then told the aircraft to hold short of Runway 22L and pointed out the operator’s error, saying, “FedEx 661, uh, you just crossed Runway 22 Right on your own, you know that.” The operator acknowledged and said he didn’t realize the mistake until he had found himself halfway across the runway.

Winn, confident that FedEx 661 was not going to proceed any further and risk crossing 22L then instructed the aircraft to change frequency, and monitor the tower’s local control. But by then, Sawyer had already tried and failed to reach FedEx661 as it approached Runway 22R and did not look like it was going to stop short. Sawyer was forced to make some quick decisions regarding a JetBlue flight off 22R, which he had moments earlier cleared for takeoff. But upon failing to reach the FedEx operator, Sawyer immediately canceled JetBlue’s takeoff clearance and averted a serious incident.

“These controllers are very deserving of this award because of their quick reaction,” Boston Tower NATCA Facility Representative Tom Coronite said. “Because he was scanning the operating area, James saw the FedEx aircraft moving fast and, even though that aircraft was not his responsibility, he took immediate action. As FedEx was not on his frequency, he quickly went to the JetBlue pilot and canceled his takeoff clearance. Otherwise, the FedEx and the JetBlue may have collided at the Runway 22 Right and the Taxiway Charlie (C) intersection.”

Mike Blake, New England Region Vice President:

“Jim Sawyer is the consummate professional. Some may mistake his intense demeanor as harsh, but let me assure you, his job at Logan is complex, and those who choose to work there better bring their ‘A Game.’ He has been a NATCA activist for many years and is presently the legislative coordinator for Maine. Jim has five children, one of whom is performing his second tour of duty in the Middle East as a U.S. Marine. Sacrifice and professionalism are Jim’s legacies. Kevin Winn is another of Boston Logan’s finest. He is passionate about runway safety and expects those who visit this complex facility to be prepared for its extremely fast pace. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and cares for his fellow controllers. One of his well known lines in the tower cab is ‘What’s wrong with the TRACON?’ He is a lighthearted professional who leaves his fellow workers smiling.”

A transcript of this recording can be found HERE.

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