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NATCA Members Honored at ATCA Awards Ceremony

The Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) hosts an annual award ceremony in conjunction with its annual conference, giving special recognition to those persons and/or organizations engaged in the development, operation, or maintenance of the worldwide air traffic control system for outstanding achievement. The awards were presented virtually on Dec. 8.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Space Operations team received the President’s Award. The Space Operations team at the Command Center (DCC) is tasked with the safe and efficient integration of space launches and reentry operations into the National Airspace System (NAS). The team was comprised of retired TMU-Command Center (DCC) member Carla Lounsbury (pictured top-left), current DCC Staff Specialist Beth Adams (pictured top-center), members of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), and various contract support staff.

Rapidly growing operations combined with new and changing operations present a unique challenge for the Agency and the Space Operations team. The increase in volume and new missions have led many industry experts to label this the “Second Space Race.” The team has worked hard over the last year to collaboratively develop new and innovative methods to better integrate operations and reduce the effects to the NAS.

During the past year, the team has accomplished the development of time-based launch procedures and dynamic launch/reentry windows, the integration of new space operations, the establishment of new letters of agreement (LOAs) with the three federal ranges at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). The team also made an agreement with WFF for onsite collaboration during launch operations.

Key West Tower (EYW), one of NATCA’s 112 represented federal contract towers (FCT), operated by Robinson Aviation, Inc. received the Chairman’s Award. In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm, struck Key West. The tower remained opened until the mandatory evacuation order was given. Once the members were allowed to return, they saw the tower had sustained severe damage. A mobile tower was sent with minimal equipment – no radar, no flight data processing, no weather equipment, or phone service. The controllers used binoculars, portable radios, and a cell phone for coordination. It was several weeks before radar and flight data information was installed in the mobile tower.

Since 2017, the members have continued to ensure the airport operates safely in the midst of extreme circumstances. They continue to work out of the mobile tower, while repairs are still being made to the permanent facility, nearly three years later. Despite their limited field of vision and confined operating quarters, the members continue to provide safe and efficient air traffic services. They remain professional, positive, and focused on their mission, day in and day out.

NATCA continues to hold our EYW members close in our thoughts since the passing of EYW FacRep Mike King in July from complications related to COVID-19.

Riverside, Calif., FCT (RAL) member Tim Maune received the Andy Pitas Aircraft Save Award for preventing a collision between two aircraft. Prior to the tower opening that particular day, Maune heard multiple aircraft taxiing for departure, and two aircraft transmitted that they were attempting to depart at different ends of the same runway. Aircraft departing from each end of the runway are not visible to each other, so the pilots would not have seen each other until it was too late. Maune quickly and decisively alerted one aircraft to not depart. His attention to detail and vigilance in hearing and processing transmissions before the tower was open prevented a catastrophic event and saved both pilots and aircraft from a collision at midfield.

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