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NATCA Awards

Archie League Medal of Safety Awards

The ability to think quickly and remain calm under pressure while maintaining situational awareness are just some of the unique qualities that air traffic controllers possess. Their willingness to resolve complex situations without hesitation, offer a reassuring voice to those on the frequency, and ability to coordinate their efforts with other controllers help these dedicated professionals be successful at maintaining the safety of the National Airspace System.

While many controllers often feel that they are “just doing their job,” their hard work is often viewed by others as remarkable and extraordinary. The Archie League Medal of Safety Awards were created in 2004 and named for the first air traffic controller, Archie League. The program highlights a variety of aviation “saves” — some which involve a team of controllers working together, while others are the result of one controller’s efforts.

Call for Archie League Medal of Safety Award Nominations

NATCA Members: We’re looking for the best saves that have occurred at your facilities from May 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020. A member may nominate another member for an Archie League Medal of Safety Award. Deadline to nominate: June 15, 2020.

If you have questions or are having trouble collecting all nomination materials, please contact Doug Church.

Learn more about recent and past winners.

Beacon of NATCA

The Beacon of NATCA award is given to a facility that rises above and handles an emergency or disaster situation with grace under pressure. It was created to recognize those facilities that go above and beyond to perform the essential and difficult task of disaster response. The recipients of this award provide exceptional ATC services. The individuals in these facilities show incredible perseverance and inspire us. They are the beacon that guides us home and the heroes that rise above the chaos to keep the NAS running as safely and efficiently as possible.

Recipients of the Beacon of NATCA Award:

2019: Alaskan Facilities

At Communicating For Safety 2019, NATCA presented this award to Anchorage ATCT (ANC), Anchorage TRACON (A11), Merrill Field ATCT (MRI), Anchorage Center (ZAN), and NATCA-represented Flight Service Stations for their response to the  Nov. 30, 2018, earthquakes that struck Anchorage, Alaska, and severely damaged homes and businesses. The towers swayed violently, and members were thrown on the floor and equipment in the facilities were falling around them. It was a scary day for everyone. Most controllers kept working without knowing the conditions of their own homes.  Watch video

2018: Las Vegas ATCT, Las Vegas TRACON, Seattle ATCT, Seattle TRACON

The team of NATCA members at Seattle TRACON and Seattle ATCT were honored for the exceptional care, skill, and professionalism they displayed during an incident on Aug. 10 in which a Horizon Air employee stole, flew, and then crashed an aircraft.

At Seattle TRACON, Kimberly Brooks credited the entire crew on duty for performing a great team effort. “It was really incredible; the collaboration with Sea-Tac Tower and the way the room was reconfigured to handle the situation,” she said. “Seattle Center (ZSE) did an incredible job with the traffic coming in and redirecting them. I’m new to the FAA. The majority of my time has been military. It was incredible, the response, and then afterwards the support. The CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) crew came. That was very helpful.”

The team of NATCA members working at both Las Vegas ATCT (LAS) and Las Vegas TRACON (L30) were honored for keeping air traffic and passengers safe during the evening of Oct. 1, 2017, when the horrific shooting of concert goers at the Route 91 Harvest occurred just a short distance from McCarran International Airport.

Jamaal Haltom (LAS) and Anthony Borgert (L30) described how controllers at each facility rose to the occasion despite an assortment of challenges, starting with the initial confusion over what exactly was happening and the fear that LAS controllers might be shot at.

“Ideally, you would have an all-knowing understanding of what was occurring,” Borgert said. “But that’s not reality. You work with what you know.”

Haltom said initial reports were of multiple shootings on the Strip. Controllers believed they might be at risk and debated whether to stay in the tower. Then a call came from an off-duty LAS controller who was at the concert, escaped the gunfire, and had the presence of mind to call the tower to frantically ask them to stop the helicopter traffic over Mandalay Bay and that part of the Strip.

“You had people on the runways,” Jon Weaks said. “Were they shooters or being shot at? There were so many things going on and just a level, calm voice from air traffic control. They were coordinating on the fly. Everyone in this room owes LAS and L30 a huge shout out.”

2018: Facilities and Members of the Southwest and Southern Regions Affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

In April 2018 at the 17th Biennial Convention in Philadelphia, NATCA took time to commend the facilities and individuals who worked under unthinkable conditions and rose up to support the National Airspace System and their brothers and sisters during a year (2017) of unprecedented natural disasters. NATCA recognized some of the facilities that were affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria for their “inspiring effort during a disaster event and providing exceptional ATC services,” even through the devastation. Many facilities were affected by the storms as they helped lessen the burden of keeping the skies open and safe, but the Beacon of NATCA award went to those most severely devastated by the storms.

The scope of these particular disasters and the relief efforts that followed went beyond the ATC services NATCA members provided from facilities. NATCA was compelled to recognize individual NATCA members for their generosity, hope, enthusiasm, dedication, organization, and willingness to do whatever is necessary to help those in need. Another version of the Beacon of NATCA was created this year to recognize individuals for their “contribution during a disaster event in support of the National Airspace System and the professionals who operate it,” as the award inscriptions read.

It was a record-breaking year of disasters on several fronts. Natural disasters in the United States included droughts, floods, mudslides, tornados, and unthinkable wildfires. Requests for federal aid for disaster relief increased ten-fold from 2016.The most destructive wildfires in California’s history ravaged the state for weeks, killing dozens of people and destroying vast swaths of land and property. Several states saw record-breaking flooding and temperatures. Any of these disasters would constitute a devastating year, but Mother Nature wasn’t done. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked enduring damage throughout the Caribbean, Southern United States, and Texas in the most destructive hurricane season the United States has ever seen in both fatalities and property damage.

NATCA honored Houston Center (ZHU), Houston TRACON (I90), Houston Intercontinental ATCT (IAH), Houston Hobby ATCT (HOU), and Beaumont-Port Arthur ATCT for their work around the clock. Members Jenifer McCoy (D10) and Jeff Duer (ZFW) and ZHU member Ashley Amato were also honored for their individual efforts.

St. Thomas ATCT (STT), San Juan CERAP (ZSU), Miami Center (ZMA), and San Juan ATCT (SJU), were also honored. Woody Camp (ZSU), Kyrandgel Rios (SJU), ZMA Area Representative Javier Betancourt, SAV member Mary Mayconich-Beasley, MIA Area Representative Frank Bullock, and ZMA Vice President Tom Flanary were honored for their individual contributions during and after the storms.

NATCA also honored several Engineer/Southern Region (ESO) members for their essential work planning for, repairing, and rebuilding after Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Engineers Alan Stensland, Bruce Williams, and Chris Atkinson were recognized, represented by ESO FacRep Chris Dalbec.

2017: Baton Rouge ATCT (BTR)


On the first day of heavy rain, Aug. 11, 2016, Baton Rouge (BTR) member Mat Lehnert thought nothing of it. “Nobody considered it a big deal,” he said. But by Friday, Aug. 12, the rain was falling at rates of two-to-three inches per hour and everyone began to grow more anxious.

“We were like, ‘hold on, this isn’t right,” Lehnert recalled thinking.

It wasn’t until late that evening and early into Saturday morning, Aug. 13, that what meteorologists called a “mesoscale convective system around a weak area of low pressure” finally moved off its stationary location. But by then, The Washington Post later noted, the storm dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – the equivalent of 7.1 trillion gallons of water or enough to fill Lake Pontchartrain about four times.

That’s when the situation turned from bad to catastrophically worse. A flash flood emergency was declared on Aug. 13 as rivers and tributaries carrying the swollen water flows could not contain the overflow. Baton Rouge found itself right in the middle of it, with areas to the east and south of downtown hardest hit.

To the north of town, where BTR is located, NATCA members began a week-long stretch of air traffic control operations that nearly doubled their normal weekly volume.

From Aug. 5-12, BTR members handled 1,564 operations. But from Aug. 13-19, that number jumped to 2,775. Military operations accounted for 780 of those operations at the height of the rescue and relief missions in the area. A normal week of military ops might reach between 50-100, said BTR member Imran Rehman.

Read more here.

Dale Wright Award for Distinguished, Professional and Exceptional Career Service to NATCA and the National Airspace System

Named for NATCA’s former Director of Safety and Technology, the Dale Wright Award honors an extraordinary, positive impact made on our ability to call the U.S. National Airspace System the world’s safest. This award, first presented in 2012, symbolizes a career devoted to service to NATCA and safety.

Excellence in Training Award

NATCA created the Excellence in Training Award in 2019 and it was first presented at Communicating For Safety 2019, where the “Every Day is a Training Day” initiative was featured.

The award highlights NATCA’s daily commitment to training and learning.

View past winners of the Excellence in Training Award.

James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award

NATCA created the Sentinel of Safety Award as a way to honor aviation leaders outside NATCA who have displayed outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety. On Oct. 2, 2014, at its Biennial Convention in Minneapolis, NATCA proudly renamed the award to honor Congressman Jim Oberstar, who was a tireless advocate for aviation, air traffic control, and NATCA during his tenure in Congress and as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Congressman Oberstar died on May 3, 2014, just a few weeks before NATCA in Washington, the event he supported and attended for many years, and at which in 2005 he was awarded the first Sentinel of Safety Award.

NATCA National Professionalism Award

The goal of our Professional Standards program is to maintain and promote professionalism across all of NATCA’s bargaining units. We achieve that through a commitment to safety and through upholding the public’s trust. We work to inspire, to motivate, to provide personal examples of our professionalism to others, and to maintain the highest standard of excellence. We know our actions represent all our fellow professionals, and we work to bring honor and respect to all that we do. The NATCA National Professional Standards Committee (PSC) has created the “NATCA National Professionalism Award” as a means to recognize the actions of those who continually strive to achieve these goals.

At each annual Communicating For Safety (CFS), the PSC presents one recipient from each FAA Service Area with a NATCA National Professionalism Award, a minimum of three recipients each year. The members of the PSC will determine the recipients no later than 60 days prior to the beginning of CFS and forward those names to the National Executive Board for approval. The recipients will be chosen based on their individual professional contributions and performance that enhanced the standings of their profession. Additionally, the PSC will consider their personal commitment to safety and excellence in the selection. 

View past winners of the National Professionalism Award.

Nominations for the 2020 National Professionalism Award are due by July 15, 2020.

Region X Commitment to Safety Award

The Region X Commitment to Safety Award is given annually to a Region X member who has shown a profound dedication to ensuring the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). The award is peer-nominated, and any Region X member in good standing can be nominated for work done between May 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020 in their role as an aviation safety professional.

View past winners of the Region X Commitment to Safety Award.

Nominations for the 2020 Region X Commitment to Safety Award are due by June 15, 2020.

Steve Hansen Safety Advocate Award

Named for the Chairman of the NATCA National Safety Committee, the Steve Hansen Safety Advocate Award is presented to a NATCA member who has made extraordinary achievements and has worked tirelessly on NATCA’s behalf to be a leader in furthering the cause of aviation safety. While each winner has contributed their skills, dedication, and work ethic in different ways, with varying areas of expertise, there is one thing that ties them all together: they are all passionate about safety and aviation.

Team Excellence Award

The NATCA Team Excellence Award was created to recognize NATCA teams, workgroups, or committees that exemplify the true collective spirit of working together to achieve greatness.


Recipients of the Team Excellence Award:

2018 (Presented at Communicating For Safety): NDIS Team and 3120.4 Rewrite Team

No-Experience Direct Hire Initial Screen (NDIS): Team members were Jim Dyckman (N90), Daniel Foster (D10), Marc Schneider (ZID), Maurice Franklin (PCT), and Leah Montes (SCT). The NDIS workgroup developed a collaborative approach for the FAA and NATCA to address the challenges of placing employees with no prior ATC experience into level 10 and above terminal RADAR facilities.

3120.4 Rewrite Team members: Jimmy Lake (HCF), Andreas Sanchez (DFW), and Trevor Thompson (ZJX). The workgroup was established to collaboratively address reviewing, revising, and making recommendations for changes to the national training order (3120.4).

2018 (Presented at the 17th Biennial Convention in Philadelphia): OJTI Curriculum Workgroup, National Organizing Committee, and the Critical Incident Stress Management Team

The On-the-Job Training Instructor (OJTI) Curriculum Workgroup was empaneled in 2013 to work on a new OJTI Workshop and OJTI Cadre course to replace the out-of-date workshop that was in place. As the work progressed, the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) identified an increase in incidents involving different factors related to OJT, and it became apparent that an OJTI Supplemental Workshop was needed. Over the course of the next three years, Tom Hedeen, Marc Schneider, and Jimmy Lake worked tirelessly to develop an OJTI Supplemental Workshop as well as the OJTI Workshop and Cadre Courses. The first course was conducted in December of 2016 and began rollout to the field in April 2017. This team dedicated countless hours and extraordinary effort to ensure that the members they represented would receive the best possible preparation to provide OJT.

NATCA’s National Organizing Committee was honored for its dedication to growing the NATCA family and ensuring that all aviation safety professionals who seek representation are assisted by the best. In 2014 the committee launched the NATCA Difference campaign, highlighting the benefits and opportunities that come with NATCA membership. In 2016 we saw those efforts pay off when NATCA won a runoff election for the Financial Management (AFN) bargaining unit, adding 1,300 new NATCA Bargaining Unit Employees (BUEs). Since the mid-1990s, NATCA has been working to represent Federal Contract Towers (FCT), and in March 2018, NATCA chartered its 100th FCT NATCA local. The Organizing Committee has shown extraordinary dedication, and continues to expand our family with new members and locals. Committee chairman John Bratcher (FSM), and members Clarence Cadenhead (MCI), Israel Bonilla (PHL), Mike Weekley (CMH), Phil Hughes (A90), Rob Valland (ZDV), Ken Slauson (EAL), Susan Lefler (ENM), Brad Burtner (PMP), Michael Gifford (CHA), Cesar Cordero (ELP), and Melissa Pollard (L30) were honored.

NATCA honored the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team for the work they did this year during and after the devastating natural disaster season, particularly hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, but also for the California wildfires, and everything in between. CISM team members Chris Schenk (ZSE), Carrie Uphus (STP), Holly Cron (ZHU), Kristine Mooso (ZBW), Travis Jensen (ZAN), Kristen Laubach (PHL), Matt Ellington (ORD), Joel Weiler (LGB), Mike Napolitano (ZMP), Deb Stewart (CRP), Andrea Moore (CLT), Tom Hedeen (DEN), Sarah Grampp (ZKC), Krystal Causey (ZMA), and Maliesa Nichols (MYF) have been there for our members in the most harrowing times. Even during Convention, they were on standby to lend an ear and advice for those affected by SWA Flight 1380 in Philadelphia and the death of member Kristle Jimenez (SFO). These members take little acknowledgement, but are there for each of us any time an incident occurs or we need an understanding peer to talk to.

2017 (Presented at Communicating For Safety): Professional Standards Team Members Garth Koleszar, Andy Marosvari, and Jeff Richards

NATCA honored founding members of the Union’s Professional Standards Program Garth Koleszar, Andy Marosvari, and Jeff Richards for their efforts in launching and growing the program.

“The team receiving this award today helped take NATCA to a new level,” said Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert during the presentation. She added that the trio is committed and dedicated to making sure professionalism is at the forefront of everything we do.

Gilbert explained that in 2009, the Professional Standards program was first codified in the Red Book collective bargaining agreement. In 2010, reps from FAA and NATCA met in Cleveland to begin drafting the program.

Gilbert said the three are some of the most dedicated NATCAvists. “They have committed their entire careers to better this Union and to highlight and strengthen our professionalism.”

2016: Slate Book Contract Negotiating Team

Going into contract negotiations for what became the 2016 Slate Book covering the ATC/FSS/TMU/NOTAM bargaining units, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said he had one guiding philosophy.

“I wanted to continue to build on the road of success and collaboration that NATCA and the FAA have developed over the past several years, and continue to move the Agency forward and continue to grow aviation in this country,” he said.

NATCA’s Contract Team was comprised of: Dean Iacopelli (Chief Negotiator, Eastern Regional Vice President), Phil Barbarello (Former Eastern RVP), John Bratcher (Fort Smith), Eddie DeLisle (Portland, Ore., TRACON), Jamaal Haltom (Las Vegas Tower), Drew MacQueen (Cleveland Center), Eugene Freedman (Special Counsel to the President, National Office), and Ryan Smith (Director of Labor Relations, National Office). On Friday, Sept. 2, 2016, at the 16th Biennial Convention, Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert honored the contract team members by presenting them with the NATCA Team Excellence Award.

The contract team became the first to establish an article within a contract solely about collaboration. It incorporates all of NATCA’s collaborative principles and processes and will provide stability for the workforce for the next six years. Collaboration is not simply a memorandum of understanding. It is a practice that has been fostered by NATCA and the FAA for the last five years that is now memorialized by the contract. Read more.

The John Thornton Award

In Recognition of Extraordinary Contributions That Have Significantly Changed the Course of NATCA’s History.

NATCA lost one of its founding fathers in 2013 with the passing of John Thornton. At the 2014 Minneapolis Convention, NATCA honored Thornton’s memory with a special presentation and the introduction of a new award named for him and inspired by his extraordinary contributions to the birth of our Union.

Thornton embodied every great characteristic of a union man. He put his brothers and sisters’ interests first. He also made the biggest sacrifice in 1981, as a member of PATCO. Those who were hired to fill the open controller positions, faced the same challenges and struggles. It was Thornton who then helped them by leading a new effort to unionize.

  • NATCA’s video chronicling Thornton’s life and career
  • NATCA’s special tribute to Thornton on Oct. 3, 2014, including the presentation of the Thornton Award to his wife, Ginny
Tim Haines Memorial Award of Honor and Distinction

At each NATCA convention, union members and employees who have done an exceptional job representing NATCA values are honored with the Tim Haines Memorial Award of Honor and Distinction, otherwise known as the “Timmy Award.” This prestigious award was originally named the “Natty Award,” first presented by former President John Carr at the 2002 NATCA Cleveland Convention, then at the 2004 St. Louis and the 2006 Boston Conventions. The “Natty Award” was changed to the “Timmy Award” during the 2008 Miami Convention in honor of Haines, who, with hard work and dogged determination, successfully implemented a reclassification project into NATCA’s third contract, the Green Book.

Starting as a controller and then facility representative at Pittsburgh Tower (PIT), Haines was elected Eastern Region RVP in 1991. Haines is remembered as a NATCA member who never backed down. Because of this staunch dedication to his union, NATCA appointed him to a reclassification project that would revolutionize the way in which members of the union are paid fairly. Many did not believe this project would be successful and thought the FAA would never agree to it. But Haines never faltered in his resolve to protect his profession and the well-being of each and every member of his union.

After 18 months and 200 facility site visits to observe air traffic operations, Haines and his team collected loads of data and presented their proposal at the 1994 convention in Tampa. Shortly afterwards, FAA managers came onboard and the project was put into effect in the 1998 Green Book.

Haines passed away in 2006 and this award recognizes members of the NATCA family for their relentless dedication and Haines-worthy commitment to NATCA.

Trish Gilbert Legislative Activism Award

In 2009, NATCA established the National Legislative Activism Award to be presented at NATCA in Washington (NiW). The following year, at her first NiW as Executive Vice President (EVP), the award was named for Gilbert, one of NATCA’s most effective activists in its history. Gilbert set the standard and defined what it means to be a legislative activist in the Union.

In 2001, Gilbert became the Southwest Region Representative on the National Legislative Committee (NLC). In 2005, she earned the position of NLC Chair, which she held until becoming NATCA’s EVP in 2009. The award was named after Trish because of her incredible work ethic, her drive to take NATCA from “good” to “great,” and the inspiration she has been to others.

The award is given each year to an activist who has demonstrated the passion to serve the Union through legislative activism and stepped up to do extraordinary work.

View past winners of the Trish Gilbert Legislative Activism Award.