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2020 Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners’ Spotlight: Western Pacific Region Podcast Transcript

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Losing Altitude, Options, Grumman Pilot Gets Help From San Diego Controllers Shelly Bruner and Jamie Macomber

Doug Church:  Hello and welcome to the NATCA Podcast. I’m Doug Church, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Today we have a real treat for you. Throughout the fall, we have begun a series of interviews with our newest group of Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners, each talking about their flight assists that were judged to be the best of the last year.

But today, we have a historic first. Not only do I get to introduce you to Shelly Bruner and Jamie Macomber, our Western Pacific Region Winners from the San Diego Tower, but we also reached the Pilot, Duffy Fainer, who graciously agreed to join us. It was his first chance to meet Shelley and Jamie, albeit in a virtual setting on Microsoft Teams. This is the first time we’ve had the winners of the Archie League Award together with the pilot they helped in a conversation that took place before the Awards Banquet.

Duffy is a professional announcer, and his voice is very familiar to controllers both at San Diego Tower and also nearby Montgomery Executive Tower, where he’s based at.

On an afternoon flight last April, Duffy encountered his first in-flight emergency of his 15-year flying career. He had a problem with the throttle in his Grumman American AA5A Cheetah at 1,200 feet and needed to get down fast. San Diego was the nearest airport.

Pilot:  Hey Lindbergh Tower, good afternoon; Cheetah 365 on Mission Bay, 1,200.

Air Traffic Control:  Hello, Cheetah 365, Lindbergh Tower; what’s your request today?

Pilot:  I have myself a problem with my throttle. It doesn’t seem to be producing any power above 2,000 RPM. I’m able to inch a climb here on-route back to Montgomery, so I’d just like to maintain my position here over the [VOR] and continue a climb if able.

Air Traffic Control:  Cheetah 365 that is approved; whatever you need to do.

Doug Church:  Here’s my conversation with Shelley, Jamie, and Duffy.

Duffy Fainer:  Well Shelly, congratulations by the way. I’m very happy for you. I’m sorry this all had to happen during my drama but at least it didn’t happen for long.

Shelly Bruner:  I know right. I’m just glad that you’re safe. That’s what matters the most.

Duffy Fainer:  I was feeling badly that I was scaring the hell out of you as I was coming across the approach-end at 140 MPH in a full-on airshow aerobatic side slip, which you probably don’t get a chance to see, if at all at Lindbergh. You were probably thinking oh my god; how is this going to end? And so, I was feeling badly about that.

Shelly Bruner:  I just wanted you to get on the ground, like I felt like you were floating over the runway for a long time. But all the other stuff, like we have aircraft, like you know little GAs that dive-bomb into the runway all the time, so. That part wasn’t too scary. 

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah; it was a long, long float down–I floated for a good mile down the runway because I got off like 7,500 feet down from the displaced threshold and I was wondering when it was all going to finally end.

Doug Church:  Duffy, why don’t you lead us off, and tell us about yourself and your career and also your time in an airplane over these years?

Duffy Fainer:  Professionally I work as a Special Event Emcee and Corporate Stage Host, Game Show Host, Auctioneer, Disc Jockey. I do voiceovers for industrial videos, instructional videos, medical videos, on-hold messages, and all that kind of stuff. So, that’s my professional background.

And I’ve been flying since 2005. I’ve been skydiving since 1974. And I grew up under the approach path of 2-4-left at Montreal International Airport, so for me, airplanes was a pretty significant chunk of my life right from my–the beginning of my childhood.

Doug Church:  And you had told me a few days ago when we talked that you actually grew up wanting to be an air traffic controller. Can you talk about that?

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah, yeah; I wanted to be just like Shelly one day. Yeah; I got myself an air traffic controller receiver for my 13th birthday and from that moment on I was glued to the radio and glued to the–to the skies and the charts and phoning the poor controllers at Montreal Tower up late at night to try to get my answers, my questions answered, and was determined that if I could learn to speak French, which was required in Quebec that when I turned 18 I would go to the Academy and become an air traffic controller.

Yeah; so half of the fun of flying for me now is having a professional and cordial communication with the controllers and making my flight successful in that regard, not just landing safely, but also knowing that I had a good communication with all the controllers en-route.

Doug Church:  Excellent. Shelly, tell us about yourself.

Shelly Bruner:  So, I joined–well, my dad was in the Navy. He was a mechanic, and so like I grew up around Miramar and airplanes. So, I had like a fascination from all of that. And then when it came time for deciding what to do after high school, college wasn’t my thing, so I joined the Army because they had the most helicopters. I had a fascination for helicopters. And I did that for five and a half years. I did a contract in Afghanistan for I think it was like 18 months, and then I got picked up by the FAA, and I’ve been with them for about 11 years now, most of it at Lindbergh.

Doug Church:  Oh, that’s what my next question was–you’ve been at Lindbergh the entire time?

Shelly Bruner:  No; I started out at the TRACON actually [Laughs], So-Cal TRACON, but I was there for a year, and then they offered me–which Lindbergh is actually my dream job, so they offered me that. And I went ahead and took it.

Doug Church:  Outstanding. And Jamie, tell us about yourself.

Jamie Macomber:  Yeah; so, I just came across the job one day and somebody had told me about it, and they’re like you need to apply. I did. And been doing it for 12 years now. I started out originally in Oakland Center, and then I did that for a couple years. And then I came down here, and I’ve been at Lindbergh for about 10 years now.

Doug Church:  So, Duffy, most of your experience in the San Diego region, you fly mostly in and out of Montgomery; is that correct?

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah; Montgomery is my home base.

Doug Church:  Let’s get into the particulars of this event now last April. You had taken off from Montgomery and were flying west; is that correct?

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah; I was doing my regular daily routine flight, which is head off of Montgomery and head west of the Miramar airspace, toward the Mormon Temple, maneuver around the Torrey Pines area, come back up the shoreline, maneuver around La Jolla, La Jolla Cove, and come back into the airspace via Crystal Pier, Mission Bay, just north of the Lindbergh airspace, about six miles west of the Montgomery airspace, and come back in that way.

And it had been a quiet year up to that point with COVID shutting down a lot of the flying, so it was very quiet on that day. But prior to that, that was my 80th flight in 2020, and at that point that was April 24th. So, I was flying pretty regularly.

Doug Church:  So, let’s talk about then when you first noticed that the throttle was a problem and–and there’s a particular part on your aircraft which is the AA5 Grumman American Cheetah–there’s a certain part that you had described as having been the problem here, a detached throttle rod. Do I have that correct?

Duffy Fainer:  It’s a detached throttle bearing, what attaches the actual throttle cable to the carburetor arm. So, it looks like a trailer ball and hitch, which you might see in a photo, so on the carburetor arm is a ball, and on the end of the throttle rod is a hitch that captures the ball.

And you can’t really get a good look at it unless you fully disassemble it, perhaps every–annual or any time the carburetor is serviced. And even though 10 mechanics over the last 10 years of wear, and the part is 20 years old, might have had a chance to disassemble it and get a full-on look at it, they either didn’t or didn’t detect the fact that it was wearing to the point where the hitch was about to just pop off the ball because there was no longer any physical retention for that.

And so, at the moment that I crossed Crystal Pier and put in the throttle, after contacting Montgomery Tower, I realized that the throttle wasn’t being effectuated by the knob any longer, and it was stuck at the 2,000 RPM point which was pretty much enough to enable me to sustain a level flight but it wasn’t going to let me climb, so it turned out.

Doug Church:  At that point, what was your altitude?

Duffy Fainer:  I crossed over Crystal Pier at about 800 feet to 900 feet in a climb and coasted in that climb up about another 300 feet to 1,200 feet. And when I checked in with Lindbergh Tower, when I was in distress over Mission Bay, I had 1,200 feet at that point.

Doug Church:  So, in listening to the audio, what struck me when you first called Lindbergh was just how calm you were in reporting what was happening. What were you feeling when this problem arose, and had you encountered any kind of an in-flight situation similar to this before?

Duffy Fainer:  I had had moments of wonder, of consternation wondering what the hell was going on with my plane, which was quick–quick and brief to resolve itself. In this moment, I just felt dread, because I knew this was most likely not going to resolve itself.

I’ve had skydiving emergencies in the past. I’ve had eight parachute malfunctions and one emergency water–ocean landing. But this was my first actual in-flight emergency in an aircraft in 15 years. So, I knew that I wasn’t in a good position to try to get back to Montgomery Field, which was six miles away because I was stuck at an altitude that I would have had rising terrain en route back to Montgomery Field. And that didn’t seem like a good idea, flying over houses and suburbs and buildings.

So, I called Lindbergh Tower and talked to Shelley, and told her I had an issue, and needed to sort it out, and see if I can get a climb going, so if I did have a little bit more altitude I had more options for gliding and sustained flight. She basically said whatever you need, which gave me a lot of confidence and sense that somebody was there backing me up despite the fact that I was in the cockpit all alone with my–with my sad little airplane. And coming around the turn, I realized I wasn’t getting any altitude and actually the RPM gage was starting to drop. And at that point, I realized that I didn’t know how long this thing was going to sustain itself in-flight. And I better make a decision before it was too late to glide anywhere.

So, I had Fiesta Island below me, which in Mission Bay Park in San Diego is a fairly open and desolate maybe two-mile stretch of sand that terminates into the hard-packed dirt where it meets the water. So, I knew I could go down there. And when I was deliberating about landing there as an–as an out, that’s when Shelly came in and asked me if I was still with her. And I think she was asking me because she had traffic that was departing. She had an Embraer that was departing and another 737 that was coming in, which was United 1869, and just wanted to know what my situation was. And at that point, I realized that I was decision-time.

So, when she said Runway 9 is available, and I was looking at 2-7 which was another mile and a half to two miles away if I was going to approach it from that direction, it gave me an option I wasn’t really considering. And I realized that–but my hesitation was I didn’t want to tie up their nice big airport.

Duffy Fainer:  I didn’t want to be that guy you know that left the big smoking hole in the middle of their runway and closed down their runway for two hours. And I didn’t want to be an issue or be in the way. But Shelly definitely made me feel welcome and made me feel like they were all there to support me, which definitely helped support my decision to make a run in that direction.

So, it was about a mile and a half to two miles away to the point that I knew I was going to make the runway. And when I got there, I was just smoking over the approach end at about 140 miles an hour, and killed the engine, killed the throttle, and then killed the magnetos, the ignition source to the–to the engine and just put the plane in a really, really steep slip, watching Terminal 2 go by, and then watching Terminal 1 go by, and thinking to myself that I just got to keep this thing really steeply banked. And sooner or later it’s got to run out of airspeed. And ultimately it did. It took me about a good mile of being in that side-slip until things finally slowed down enough for me to flatten out and put it down. And I was able to exit at I think Charlie 4 and at that point my main concern was getting off the runway so they could open up the runway and the airport again.

Doug Church:  Well, Shelly, let’s pick it up from there, from your point of view. And this was also evident on the tape–is that Duffy, you almost seem surprised that landing at San Diego was an option and not having to go back to Montgomery. Do you encounter other small planes that either scheduled or unscheduled need to land as an emergency or any other situation?

Shelly Bruner:  Jamie can actually speak on this one. She actually had a T34 I think it was–

Jamie Macomber:  Yeah; I actually had something similar happen quite a few months before. I had a T34 offshore lose an engine. And we had to bring him in, and he landed on Runway 9.

Duffy Fainer:  Wow; was this a military T34 or a civilian T34?

Jamie Macomber:  I believe it was a military T34.

Shelly Bruner:  Yeah.

Duffy Fainer:  Wow.

Shelly Bruner:  So, it’s not super-common but I mean it’s definitely–

Jamie Macomber:  But it happens on occasion.

Shelly Bruner:  Yeah; she had seen it happen before.

Duffy Fainer:  You know in general, general aviation pilots are not well-trained, practiced, or prepared to deal with emergencies. They’re going to want to get back to where their car is, where their maintenance facility is, where their loved ones are, where their hangar is, so that’s the first thing they think of is trying to get somewhere more convenient. And we’ve seen a lot of episodes lately where pilots overflew perfectly good airport with the intention of trying to get elsewhere and it didn’t end well for either of them.

So, that’s one thing that aviators could do better. And the other thing is we’re, you know typically afraid of or intimidated by the big class bravo airports and don’t want to you know infringe or impose or be a burden. And I would certainly encourage aviators in the–especially after my incident–to ask for help and expect that controllers are going to make getting you down safely as their first priority.

Doug Church:  Well, Shelly, take us back then through what you both experienced in the Tower, and Shelly from the point at which you received the call, and then the things that go on in your head that need to be done. And Jamie, then follow-up because obviously you were handling so many things on the backend right next to her, as well. So, Shelly, do you want to kind of talk about what all transpired there?

Shelly Bruner:  Yeah; I actually knew something was up like on his first transmission because you know he’s got a very familiar voice, very familiar you know aircraft call sign and all this and that, whatever. So, we’re very familiar with him coming into the airspace, but he always calls like with all of his requests all at once. You know so, it’s like [Inaudible], I want the taxiway Delta, you know whatever it is. And so, when he just called me with his call sign, I’m like okay, this is going to be different.

So, he just you know said he had issues with the throttle. You know I think like instantly the adrenaline just started kicking in because then it’s like okay, well now I have to like you know figure out what’s going to happen, what’s my Plan A, B, and C, you know kind of thing.

So, he was just circling the air, and I’m like okay, I don’t have any other traffic. We were really slow; you know like we hardly had any arrivals and departures. So, you know it wasn’t really too difficult to make the plan.

And then it looked like he was heading towards Montgomery, and so, I had called Montgomery on the landline and said hey, I got Cheetah over here. He’s got issues. Are you talking to him? They’re like yeah; we’re talking to him. I’m like all right, cool. But then he started to turn back south, just east of the [VOR], so then that’s when I had reached out to him and I had already had my Embraer, like so my Embraer was supposed to be a northwest departure. I had already had him on a straight-out just because I wanted to keep him in the Bay completely. You know and then that’s when I offered him Runway 9. And as soon as he said he wanted it, I was like all right, there’s the plan; that’s it. We’re sticking to it.

You know thankfully the Embraer was already upwind and the United, you know they were about a mile out I think on final when I just did the replay. I thought they were farther out, but when I watched the replay, he was a bit closer. But yeah; it all worked out. I mean I’m thankful that we weren’t busier. You know I don’t know that you know I would have had that plan in my mind you know as smoothly as everything seemed to have happened.

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah; Shelly was quick. As soon as I said, yeah; I’d like to make a run for it, she immediately said, United 1869 go around. And he came back on a moment later and went, who is that for, like he couldn’t possibly believe on a mile final with you know nobody flying in the entire country at that moment that he had to make a go-around. And a friend of mine, who lived on the approach path to Lindbergh said that he felt his building shake and switched on his radio to see what was going on because he knew something must have been happening if that 73 was going around on such short final.

Doug Church:  Oh my.

Duffy Fainer:  Shelly was quick; boy, she snapped right into business when I said I needed to come in. She made things happen in a hurry.

Doug Church:  And Jamie, [Inaudible] your checklist, your mental, going through all the things that needed to be done on your end as well.

Jamie Macomber:  I think at that point you’re just kind of listening to what’s going on around you. And just picking up all the loose ends, the little bits that needed to be done, you know. She sends the guy around, so you get on the line and you call and you let everybody know this guy is going, and why he’s doing it, you know clearing as much room and taking as much of the kind of like the paperwork part of it off of her as possible, you know making sure that we had another controller in the room who had just kind of come up at the time. So, it was like okay, you know like hey pull the crash phone and make sure that if we need any kind of services or anything like that–this way, everybody is moving so that everything goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible for all of those parts and trying to–just alleviating any additional workload or stress on Shelly because that’s a stressful situation.

Jamie Macomber:  So, for everybody involved, so you’re trying to make it as easy and as seamless as possible. We were calling [Inaudible] Island, calling approach; we’re like hey, we’re sending him around. You know they’re like why–because people want to know. Again [Audio Skips]–you know seemingly no traffic in the sky and stuff like that.

Doug Church:  One thing for the listeners here for the podcast, for purposes of setting the scene, so Duffy, you described earlier of where you were in Mission Bay and Fiesta Island Park and that being an initial option for you that you thought as a last resort. And that’s approximately two to three miles north/northwest of Lindbergh. Is that correct?

Duffy Fainer:  Yeah; yeah, it’s a pretty straight shot from there over Mission Bay Park which is mostly open water tideland. So, I had lots of outs and options in that area. And except for some industrial buildings and an apartment building or two on-route, to the button of Runway 9, once the water was behind me, it was pretty much a clear shot.

Doug Church:  Take us through though, the emotions coming in though. I mean it was a sense of relief that you had Runway 9 given to you I’m sure, but then the actual approach and leading up into the landing. What was going through your head?

Duffy Fainer:  Mainly how long is this engine going to keep running and how far am I going to be able to glide, and that was mainly my concern was how long is this going to keep on running for, and am I going to be able to make the airport?

Once I got there it was more a sense of oh my god; I am screaming over the end of this runway. How am I going to shut this thing down? You know in a perfect scenario I like to think that I could have killed the engine, you know a mile out and gliding down to a perfect landing and gotten off at the first taxi way. But my takeaway again is if you’re going to have a drama, you want to go to the longest runway, least amount of civilization, and have as many services waiting for you as possible.

If I had tried to make it back to Montgomery and had I made it, and tried to make that same maneuver, I would have ended up in the In and Out Burger on the other side of the freeway from Runway 5 or Runway 2-8 right or left. Having fences around the perimeter of Montgomery Field would not have ended up well for me in an airplane that was you know basically out of control when it came to controlling my speed.

Doug Church:  Let me ask Shelly and Jamie, too, because you made such a great point earlier about your workload and the amount of aircraft in the air at that point in April when we were about a month into the COVID pandemic at that point. What was the staffing like in the Tower? Had you gone to different staffing levels because of COVID and the safe situation that we had in place nationwide, or what was it like at your facility?

Shelly Bruner:  Yes; we had already been broken down to our crews that were still working. So, we were broken down to A, B, C crews. Most of the crews got four people; we got the short-end of the stick. We only had three. But I think we had been on that schedule for at least two to three weeks or something like that.

Jamie Macomber:  I think so.

Shelly Bruner:  We were–the three of us were working five days and then we would have ten days at home. And so, you know things were crazy slow work-wise, traffic-wise. We were really slow.

Jamie Macomber:  And the staffing in the cab was minimal at the point it was it was me and Shelley in the cab at the time. Again, it just happened to be at a time where we were starting a changeover where somebody was going to come in, I believe–

Shelley Bruner:  You were getting relieved.

Jamie Macomber:  I was being relieved, so it was like we just happened to have like an extra body in the cab at the time.

Shelly Bruner:  Yeah; he had just walked up–

Jamie Macomber:  It was just kind of like how the timing worked out. But we were at that point definitely minimal staffing and trying to do as–as minimal contact with each other as possible you know because it was so new. It was a brand new situation, and everybody was like–still a lot of fear and unknown about COVID, so–.

Shelly Bruner:  Yeah; they had changed our schedule so there was no overlap with other crews or very minimal overlap I should say. Normally, on our normal schedule, you know we would you know work with each other and different crews throughout the day because you know we would come in at all different hours. But they changed it, so it was just the three of us for eight hours straight. The next three come in, three or four come in, kind of thing, so it was–it was a great schedule for you know lessening any contact with each other, but again, the staffing was very low.

Doug Church:  Duffy, let me go back to one of the takeaways that you mentioned earlier as far as the calmness on the part of Shelly and Jamie and the phraseology that Shelly used on the line with you, and particularly saying whatever you need. You made a point of telling me a few days ago when we first chatted that it’s those kinds of things you want to hear as a pilot, and talk about that, how the importance of phraseology plays into a situation like this from your point of view.

Duffy Fainer:  I got that from the Montgomery controller as well. He said we’re here; whatever you need. He said we’re here for you. And Shelly said whatever you need. And that reassurance certainly was helpful and supportive in putting me in a more calm state in the midst of trying to sort things out all by myself.

The problem when you’re having a parachute malfunction or an aircraft malfunction is, you’re on your own and having to make your own decisions and having to make them fast. I knew I had more time than having a skydiving malfunction, so I wanted to make the right decisions and yeah. So, her invitation to come to her airport and her reassurance that they were there to help me on a personal level, yeah, definitely gave me an extra sense of calm and reassurance.

Doug Church:  And Shelly, from your perspective on that very same topic, those are the kinds of things from your training and experience I gather that you want to make sure that he knows and any other pilots that you also deal with in these kinds of situations know that these are the options, trying to put them at ease, trying to you know be that calm professional voice that air traffic controllers are trained to be. Can you talk about that?

Shelly Bruner:  Oh yeah; absolutely. I mean it’s–you know you don’t–you can’t really train for these you know stressful situations. We have the 7110 that gives us our prescribed phraseology which you mentioned my phraseology and it’s been like one of the things that I harp on myself about because I definitely should have been a little cleaner on some of the things that I had said, mostly to the United in the sky west. But you know it’s you think about these situations and I’ve gone to the Archie League Award for the Communicating for Safety event for many years, I think six or seven times, you know. So, I’ve seen the playbacks of other controllers and pilots, and it’s like you always you know hope that when that situation comes along that you know you will be that calm voice, that you will be that–you know that helping hand to that pilot because it’s–that’s our whole job, right is to keeping them safe, you know.

So, you’re emotionally invested when you know all of the sudden you hear you know a pilot in distress. You’re just kind of like okay; this is–we’ve got to get him safe, like we’ve got to do everything we possibly can, you know. So, your mind is racing, but you also know that you want to keep your voice calm, you know because if you sound nervous it might you know come off nervous to them and they might not have you know as much of a secure feeling in this situation versus you know if you’re calm then you know most likely it’s just going to keep the whole situation balanced, so–.

Jamie Macomber:  But yeah; I mean but it was–what he said before about you know he wanted–about pilots, you know they want to [Audio Skips] their airport, they want to go back to where their car is and where their family is and things like that. And in that moment, all you want to do is get them on the ground so that they can get back to those things, so that they can keep going and doing that.

So, I think, yeah, I think in those moments, like your priority is just everything I have to do to make sure that this person is safe, let’s do that.

Shelly Bruner:  Jamie and I have kind of joked about the situation where what was that thing, where we were like we would much rather him be safe on our runway, like even if it stopped our traffic and things like that, like we would much rather have him like have a solid runway than to try to land in the dirt or the sand. And I think we were saying like come here, come here; come be safe. Come be with us, you know like that’s your instinct is just wanting you know to get them down on the ground safe and–so yeah.

Doug Church:  And one question for Duffy; at what point then after you’re on the ground–Duffy, I assume you really wanted to find out quickly what happened to your aircraft, to solve this mystery that it had happened to you. Is that right?

Duffy Fainer:  Well, I was pretty convinced that I knew what I was going to find once I opened the [cowling] and–and looked in there. I could tell just from all the play in the throttle handle that there was a mechanical disconnect there. So, I was pretty clear that whatever exactly the linkage looked like that it was going to be separated from the carburetor. But I did learn that there is no default position for the carburetor. You think that there would be that if that mechanical connection was disconnected that the carburetor would default to fully open or fully in the middle so that it wouldn’t necessarily progressively close and you would end up with zero power. But apparently, you know the 80 year-old engines that we’re relegated to flying with are not modified in any way, shape, or form to do that.

So, it turns out that if that linkage breaks, you’re stuck with you know wherever you happen to be at the moment that it broke. And for me it was arriving at Crystal Pier and after doing my yanking and banking and pulling in and pushing, just when I pushed that back in to get my climb going to get back to Montgomery that’s the moment that it broke.

So, it was opportune to some extent that was the moment that it broke and it could have happened at 500 feet when I was along Torrey Pines with no outs except for maybe a beach. So, you know never know where it’s going to happen. For me, I was fortunate that it happened where it happened, and that Shelley and Jamie were working the Tower cab on that shift.

Doug Church:  And one more question for–for you, Duffy. You throughout this conversation, you’ve mentioned several takeaways that are important. And I know it’s important to you to learn from this episode and to teach other pilots and–and everybody who will be listening to this. And are there any other takeaways that we didn’t cover that you’d like to mention now?

Duffy Fainer:  Well, a few rants include the FAA and their antiquated process of approving new and better and more modern parts for these general aviation aircraft that are you know 100 years-old that are using parts that were developed in the 1920s, that it shouldn’t take so much paperwork and make it so difficult for mechanics and owners to step up, to put on more contemporary parts on their aircraft.

And number two would be for pilots that if you’re having a drama, you know don’t–don’t wait to try to troubleshoot it. Just get it on the ground at the nearest airport that has a runway that’s long enough to accommodate your particular drama. And tell the controllers that you’re having a problem and don’t try to worry–or don’t be consumed with worrying about what the FAA is going to think or what kind of trouble you might be in afterwards, but let the controllers know that you’ve got a problem and they will jump to making sure that you’re accommodated and on the ground quickly and safely.

Doug Church:  Excellent; thank you. Shelly, any closing thoughts from you, things you want to add about–about this event?

Shelly Bruner:  I think we’ve mostly covered everything. You know I’m definitely happy for this opportunity to be able to talk to Duffy directly and get his point on things. It’s really neat to hear the pilot’s side and hear everything that you know they were going through and what their thought process was, you know because you know I’m not a pilot. I had like a couple of hours, many years ago, in a Twin Cessna, but other than that like I don’t have much experience you know flying. So, it’s always really nice to hear the other side and–and to really hear what you know they’re dealing with and what exactly his issue was. You know it’s kind of nice to hear just some more of the full story.

Duffy Fainer:  So, I wanted to say also that the crew at Lindbergh Tower are amazingly accommodating and professional and cordial considering the inexperience that gets thrown at them from general aviation pilots that are coming from all over San Diego County and how many training airplanes there are in the air right now, how many people blunder into their airspace asking for Bay tours and other things that don’t really have–don’t really have official names that they have to decipher and sort out what these pilots want and the pilots are asking for, the nonconventional terminology, and they have to get them in and through and over in some very tight confines with a lot of conflicting traffic. And they do an amazing job and they never yell, and they never scream, and they never raise their voice. And it always amazes me how professionally and cordially they can do their job under extremely difficult and complex circumstances.

And I think that if they–you know if it was otherwise, you’d have pilots that would probably never graduate with their private pilot’s license because they’d be so scared and intimidated and turned off by the entire world of aviation. And it’s a testimony to just how well-trained and professional they are that they’re able to pull this off every day.

So, thank you very much Jamie and Shelly for making my flying experience so positive every time I come into your airspace.

Shelly Bruner:  Well, thank you.

Jamie Macomber:  Thank you.


Shelly Bruner:  –always knowing exactly what you want and how to say it. Dealing with pilots that you know, know exactly what to say and what–how they want it is always you know very nice. But yeah; we definitely do deal with you know more unfamiliar pilots that are a little bit more apprehensive or don’t really know what to say, so it has its challenges. Being there for 10 years we’re pretty used to it. [Laughs]

Duffy Fainer:  Well, I always try and do my best when I’m working with you guys and I will do my best not to have another drama in your airspace.

Shelly Bruner:  [Laughs] No matter what we’re always there for you.

Duffy Fainer:  Thanks, you guys.

Shelly Bruner:  Thank you.

Doug Church:  Well on that note, I’d like to thank each of you for taking the time to do this. What a pleasure and an honor to be a part of this conversation. Thank you.

Jamie Macomber:  Thank you for organizing it.

Doug Church:  Sure.

Jamie Macomber:  It’s nice meeting you, Duffy.

Duffy Fainer:  It’s nice meeting you finally Shelly and you, too, Jamie. I’ll talk to you on 118-3.

Shelly Bruner:  All right; see you then.

Doug Church:  All right; bye-bye.

Duffy Fainer:  Thanks Doug.

Doug Church:  Thank you for joining us in this episode of the NATCA Podcast. For more information about this flight assist and our other winners of the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, please go to our website at www.natca.org. Thank you.

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