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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, named for the first U.S. air traffic controller, were first presented in 2005 to honor exceptional air traffic controller work that took place in 2004. 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.

Due to COVID-19, we were unable to present the 2020 and 2021 Archie League Medal of Safety Award to those winners at Communicating For Safety (CFS) the past two years. However, we are happy to announce the celebration of these award recipients will take place as one special event. It will be held on Friday, June 17, 2022 in New Orleans. The 2022 winners will be honored at CFS 2022 on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at Bally’s Las Vegas.

Call for Archie League Medal of Safety Award Nominations

NATCA Members: The nomination period for the 2023 Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, the 19th annual, is now open. We are looking for the best saves that have occurred at your facilities since May 1, 2022. A member may nominate another member for an Archie League Medal of Safety Award. Our banquet celebration of the 2023 Archie League Medal of Safety Award winners will be held at NATCA Communicating For Safety 2023 in Las Vegas.

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

View the winners of the Archie League Medal of Safety Award, with information about their saves:

2022 – The 18th annual; announcement of winners coming soon

View full list of winners, listed by year.

View full list of winners, listed by region.

View full list of winners, listed by facility.

Video Channel

Media Coverage

Archie League Medal of Safety Awards – President’s Award

The President’s Award is chosen by NATCA’s President as the best flight assist of the year.

View the recipients of The President’s Award.

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.

View the recipients of the Beacon of NATCA Award.

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.

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

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 the recipients 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.

(Pictured above: Congressman Oberstar at NATCA in Washington 2010, with NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert.)

View the recipients of the James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award.

VIDEO: A special tribute to Congressman Oberstar.

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 the recipients of the National Professionalism Award.

Nominations for the National Professionalism Award are now being accepted. The nomination deadline is June 1, 2022.

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 since May 1, 2022 in their role as an aviation safety professional.

View the recipients of the Region X Commitment to Safety Award.

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.

View the recipients of the Steve Hansen Safety Advocate Award.

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.

View the recipients of the Team Excellence Award.

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 15th Biennial Convention in 2014 in Minneapolis, 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.

BELOW: View a video chronicling Thornton’s life and career.

BELOW: View NATCA’s special tribute to Thornton on Oct. 3, 2014, including the presentation of the Thornton Award to his wife, Ginny.

View the recipients of The John Thornton Award.

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.

View the winners of the Tim Haines Memorial Award of Honor and Distinction:


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 the recipients of the Trish Gilbert Legislative Activism Award.

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