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2014 Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners

2014 – Winners of the 10th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, honored on March 26, 2014 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas:

Alaskan Region: Todda Yonge and Mark Lacy, Anchorage Center (ZAN)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Todda Yonge, Mark Lacy, President Paul Rinaldi, and Alaskan Regional Vice President Steve Munroe.

On the evening of November 4, 2013, Anchorage Center (ZAN) North Area controller Todda Yonge was working when he received a call from Fairbanks Flight Service Station. Controllers there had lost contact with a Cessna in need of navigation assistance after the pilot found himself in heavy snow with extremely limited visibility.

Fairbanks Flight Service Station: Fairbanks Radio, out and around Tanana do you see a 7700 squawk? It may be too low for you.

Todda: Negative, I do not.

Fairbanks FSS: Well, we’ve got a guy out. He knows he’s out in the Tanana vicinity someplace but, he’s not sure exactly where.

Yonge and another veteran controller, Mark Lacy, tried to coordinate calls with nearby aircraft to gain more information, but options were limited as traffic had quieted down for the evening and the only flights scheduled to enter the airspace were B-52 bombers whose mission was likely to be cancelled. When one of the military aircraft entered the airspace, Yonge asked if they had onboard radar, but the pilots responded that they only had ground mapping radar. Yonge asked for the aircraft to broadcast in the blind in hopes of reaching the lost Cessna pilot on his last known frequency.

Todda: And, HAIL13, there is, uh, a Cessna 172 that’s, uh, squawking 7700 in around the Tanana vicinity… Is there any way that you could either transmit or see if, uh, call him? And HAIL13, the frequency is 122.65 and the call sign is November 5459 Romeo.

HAIL13: HAIL13, copy. And you said 122.65 and try to contact November 5459 Romeo.

At this time, the B52s were 200 miles southeast of the Cessna’s estimated location. When the transmission was unsuccessful, Yonge asked the military aircraft if they would be willing to continue westbound and attempt contact with the troubled aircraft, to which they responded they would. HAIL 13 from the 69th Bomber Squadron at Minot, N.D., and HAIL 14 from the 96th Bomber Squadron at Barksdale, La., flew 200 miles out of their way attempting to contact this lost Cessna, and were able to locate and make contact with the pilot who was flying low to the ground through a valley surrounded by rugged Alaskan terrain.

Todda: And HAIL13, do you have any joy with that, uh, Cessna 172?

HAIL13: Affirm sir, we were able to reach him on 122.65. He advises that he is on a 240 radial inbound into weather and it sounds like he is not IFR-rated.

The bomber pilots were able to relay vital messages between the lost pilot and ATC, and help the pilot navigate to a safe landing at the Calhoun Memorial Airport in Tanana, Alaska.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

BELOW: Watch a special video from the crew of the B-52 bombers, led by Capt. Joshua Middendorf.

READ: Media coverage from the Alaska Dispatch.

READ: Story from the U.S. Air Force.

Central Region: Andrew Smith and Joseph Moylan, Kansas City Center (ZKC)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Joseph Moylan, Andrew Smith, President Paul Rinaldi, and Central Regional Vice President Kevin Peterson.

Air traffic controllers are trained to respond to any kind of emergency in their airspace.

On the evening of October 14, 2013, a Piper Cherokee was en route from Brainerd, Minn., to Topeka, Kan. The pilot was cleared for an instrument flight rules (IFR) approach into the airport and had already switched to the tower’s frequency, but he was unable to complete the approach. Kansas City Center (ZKC) controller Andrew Smith noticed the aircraft had wandered off course when he contacted the tower himself and learned the aircraft was nearly out of fuel. When the pilot returned to Smith’s frequency, Smith learned he was also disoriented.

N7627D: Center, Aero7627 Delta declaring emergency. Uh, low on fuel and can’t figure out where I’m at. 27 Delta.

Smith: November 6727 Delta, roger. You’re, uh, seven miles northwest of the outer marker there for the ILS 13 at Phillip Billard.

N7627D: Give me vectors, help me, help me around, I’m low on fuel.

Smith vectored the pilot back around and lined him up for a straight-in approach to runway 13, giving the pilot frequent, reassuring updates of his distance from the field.

Smith: November 27 Delta, how many people do you have on board, and how much fuel do you have?

N76287D: Three on board, and I’m showing empty, 27 Delta.

The pilot was still ten miles from the airport and had a layer of clouds to navigate through before he was able to attempt a second landing. When he was nine miles from the airport, Smith received another call from the pilot.

N76287D: I’m sputtering.

Smith quickly gathered weather information from the tower and informed them that the Cherokee’s engine was sputtering. The tower ensured there was no traffic in the area that would affect the pilot’s ability to land. He had only one more chance.

When the aircraft was on a five-mile final, Joe Moylan, the controller who was assisting Smith and who was familiar with the Piper Cherokee as a pilot himself, asked the pilot to verify he had switched tanks and activated the fuel pump. He also reminded the pilot to put his landing gear down. The pilot got the field in sight and, with a sputtering engine, made a successful landing.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

Eastern Region: Robert Ezzard, New York Center (ZNY)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Robert Ezzard, Eastern Regional Vice President Phil Barbarello, and President Paul Rinaldi.

On the afternoon of June 13, 2013, Robert Ezzard, a 27-year New York Center (ZNY) Oceanic air traffic control veteran, was working traffic to and from Bermuda when Bermuda Tower called and requested a release on Delta 657, a Boeing 757 flying from Bermuda to Kennedy Airport (JFK).

Ezzard built the 757’s protective profile in the Oceans 21 non-radar system, and included information such as route, proposed time of departure, requested altitude, and Mach speed. Delta 657 had requested FL300, but when Ezzard probed FL300 against known traffic, the system found N860QS, a Hawker jet, in the opposite direction at the same altitude. Ezzard instead cleared the Delta aircraft to FL290 so there was no conflict and sent the amended information to Bermuda Tower.

A little while later, after Delta 657 departed Bermuda and was climbing to altitude, the pilot asked to climb to his initial altitude of FL300. Ezzard probed the aircraft against known traffic and found no conflicts. He then cleared the Delta aircraft to FL300.

Unbeknownst to Ezzard, the Hawker jet’s company had filed a return flight plan already, which inadvertently removed N860QS from the system. Ezzard could no longer see the target or any flight information for N860QS and the two aircraft were on a direct collision course. They were scheduled to arrive at the same fix, JIMAC, at the same time and same altitude.

After Ezzard cleared Delta 657 to climb to FL300, his years of training and experience, along with his instinct, told him something was not right. Ezzard recalled the conflict during his initial probe and quickly stopped Delta 657’s climb at FL290 while he attempted to locate N860QS, all while working several other aircraft into and out of Bermuda.

Ezzard immediately called another air traffic controller who was working non-radar around Bermuda and had also noticed the missing flight plan. The two quickly determined what happened and were able to correct the mistake.

Thirty seconds after N860QS passed over JIMAC at FL300, Delta 657 passed in the opposite direction, 1,000 feet below the Hawker thanks to Ezzard’s skill and professionalism.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

Great Lakes Region: Jack Deutscher, Madison ATCT (MSN)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Jack Deutscher, President Paul Rinaldi, and Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis.

On February 21, 2013, Jack Deutscher, a controller of 12 years, was working approach at Madison Tower/TRACON (MSN) when the chief pilot at nearby Watertown Municipal Airport called to report a distressed pilot reporting trouble over the airport’s UNICOM frequency.

Deutscher issued a squawk code and a frequency to be relayed to the pilot of the distressed aircraft.

The pilot then contacted Madison Approach, stating he was disoriented and needed help. Earlier in the day, he had taken off for a few touch-and-gos, but flew into worsening weather and now, due to icing, he could barely see. His plane was getting harder to control, and he didn’t know where he was.

Deutscher issued a vector to the pilot in an attempt to get him back into Watertown Airport, but increasingly low ceilings and poor visibility prevented that. Since the pilot had only one or two IFR lessons years ago, it would be nearly impossible for him to land in those conditions. Deutscher decided to vector the aircraft to MSN and attempt an ASR approach, during which air traffic control gives a pilot every heading and altitude.

During the ASR approach, the aircraft strayed from the headings Deutscher had given. As the aircraft neared Madison, Deutscher guided the pilot over the airport a number of times to help him catch sight of it, which was increasingly difficult because the pilot could only see it through the small corner of his windscreen that wasn’t covered in ice. The tower, in an attempt to help the pilot, had put all of the airport lights on their highest setting.

Deutscher: November Niner Delta Mike, you’re a half mile away from the Madison Airport. It’s just ahead and to your left. If you can see anything, let me know. The lights are all the way up on all the runways.

N229DM: We’re doing just a little bit out of the corner of the window and barely.

Deutscher: Alright, so you’re not seeing the airport at all? I mean I can take you out for an ILS but I’m going to need to have you climb. You’re getting really low.

N229DM: I got it full throttle. We’re not going nowhere.

Finally, the pilot saw one of the runways through a gap in the ice and went in for his last-chance landing – the pilot was flying full throttle at only 95 knots and was still losing speed because the plane was so heavy with ice.

When the pilot was lined up to land, the tower controllers called Deutscher to let him know. Deutscher relayed the information to the pilot, but by then the ice on the Piper’s antenna was breaking up their communications. Deutscher stayed on the landline with the tower to hear whether the pilot landed. After a few tense moments, the tower reported the pilot’s safe landing.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

New England Region: Nunzio DiMillo, Boston ATCT (BOS)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Nunzio DiMillo, President Paul Rinaldi, and New England Regional Vice President Mike Robicheau.

On September 27, 2013, around 7 p.m., JetBlue Captain T.R. Wood was piloting an Embraer 190 down Taxiway B at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). At the same time, Nunzio DiMillo, a 23-year veteran controller, was watching out of the tower cab window as a Cirrus SR22 turned to line up for a landing on Runway 4L.

Oftentimes, pilots of smaller aircraft, like the Cirrus, will fly a dog-leg approach to Runway 4L. By lining up with the runway when they are over the numbers painted on the ground, they are usually able to avoid the turbulence and choppy air left behind by larger aircraft.

As the Cirrus pilot made the turn towards the airport, he apparently got confused. In the darkness, he struggled to find Runway 4L among the various lights on the airport, the lights of the city and the nearby harbor. Instead of lining up with the runway, the Cirrus pilot lined up with Taxiway B, and put his plane on a direct collision course with the JetBlue Embraer.

In the tower, DiMillo could tell something was wrong with the Cirrus’ approach. He quickly glanced up at the ASDE-X display and saw the Cirrus was lined up with Taxiway B. He immediately told the pilot to go around.

Nunzio: Six Bravo Juliet, go around. Six Bravo Juliet, go around, please. Go around.

N246BJ: Six Bravo Juliet is going around.

Nunzio: That was – you were lined up for a taxiway, Six Bravo Juliet.

About 30-feet off the ground, the Cirrus began to gain altitude, flying close enough over the Embraer that Captain Wood could hear the engine through all the noise proofing material that surrounds the cockpit. DiMillo, thinking the Cirrus pilot would probably be shaken up by the close call, kept him on the tower’s frequency as he executed the go-around. Meanwhile, the tower turned up the airport lights to help the pilot make a safe landing.

DiMillo himself had to remain calm as he continued to work the busy West Local position, a position that required him to talk to every landing and departing aircraft at Boston. In the hour that the event occurred, DiMillo spoke to 92 aircraft. His experience as a veteran controller helped him remain focused on the other aircraft under his watch.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

MEDIA COVERAGE: From the Portland, Maine, Press-Herald.

Northwest Mountain Region: Jared Mike, Seattle TRACON (S46)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Jared Mike, pilot Phillip Bush, Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Jim Ullmann, and President Paul Rinaldi.

On February 22, 2013, the pilot of a Piper PA-34 Seneca departed Spokane Airport (GEG). In an attempt to make better headway at a low altitude and avoid stronger headwinds reported at higher altitudes, he made an uneventful climb to 6,000 feet.

At 10,000 feet, the pilot experienced moderate turbulence, and as a precaution, requested a block of altitude from Seattle TRACON (S46) air traffic controller, Jared Mike, who is a pilot himself. The mountain waves were causing 300-foot altitude deviations, so Mike cleared the pilot from 9,000 to 11,000 feet. Once through the waves, the pilot climbed to 13,000 feet and remained there until he initiated his descent into the Seattle area.

As the pilot began his descent to 8,000 feet he noticed there was slight chop with icing, but the further he descended the worse the turbulence and icing became. Mike couldn’t get the pilot much lower because of the terrain. When the pilot reached 8,000 feet, the turbulence was so extreme that items on the copilot seat and utility boxes bungeed down in the rear of the aircraft were thrown about the cabin. Mike noticed the pilot was having trouble maintaining altitude and decided to check in with the pilot to see what was happening.

Jared: Airpac 55, are you having a hard time holding altitude?

APC55: Yes, sir.

Jared: Airpac 55, roger. My safest altitude I’m showing… is 5400. That’s my safest altitude. It’s not my en route altitude of 7000. If you can hold 7000, maintain 7000.

APC55: I’ll do what I can, Airpac 55.

Jared: Roger. In a few more miles I can get you down to six, sir.

APC55: I’m going to be down to six no matter what.

The pilot descended but was still battling turbulence that was making his aircraft nearly impossible to control. He was experiencing power fluctuations, and his airspeed indications were failing due to overwhelming ice. At that point, Mike declared an emergency for the pilot. Fortunately, the pilot was able to descend through 6,000 feet and exit the clouds at 2,000 feet. Mike gave the pilot instructions based on landmarks until the ice melted away and he was able to see out of the aircraft again. As the pilot continued, the turbulence subsided, and the pilot was able to continue on to land safely at Boeing Field Airport (BFI).

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

Southern Region: Edward Holden and Ramiro Martinez, Miami ATCT (MIA)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Ramiro Martinez, Edward Holden, President Paul Rinaldi, and Southern Regional Vice President Victor Santore.

On May 21, 2013, Miami Tower/TRACON (MIA) controllers Ed Holden and Ramiro Martinez were working local control and ground control, respectively, when a pilot misunderstood taxi instructions and inadvertently began moving onto an active runway. Martinez needed to reposition N870AG on the airport to allow for another aircraft to pass by.

Martinez: I’m going to cross you over to the south side onto Lima so I can get UPS out of the way. Uh, taxi and hold short of 8L on Kilo 2.

Martinez: November 870 Alpha Golf, cross runway 8L and I want you to turn left on Lima, eastbound.

N870AG: Turning, cross 8L, left, and turn, turn left on Lima.

Martinez: November 870 Alpha Golf, hold short of runway 8L at Taxiway Zulu.

N870AG: Hold short of Zulu.

N870AG correctly held short of Taxiway Zulu as instructed. Holden then cleared American Airlines 2145 for takeoff on Runway 8R at the same time as Martinez told N870AG to cross Runway 8L to return to the side of the airport he needed to be on. Instead of crossing Runway 8L, N870AG began taxiing onto Runway 8R, putting him on a direct collision course with American 2145.

Martinez: Hey! Hey. Stop, stop, uh, November 70 Golf, hold right there, hold right there. November 870 Alpha Golf, stop.

Holden: Delta 18, correction American 2145, cancel your takeoff clearance.

AA2145: Cancel takeoff clearance.

Martinez: November 870 Alpha Golf, ground.

N870AG: Let’s see, uh, ground.

Martinez: November 870 Alpha Golf, you were instructed to cross Runway 8L.

N870AG: It’s already crossing 8L.

Martinez: No sir, 8L is to your left.

As veteran air traffic controllers – Holden 28 years of experience and Martinez 24 years – both have been trained to constantly monitor for confused pilots and possible translation issues. Because of their experience and cognizance, Holden and Martinez were able to prevent a disaster at MIA.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

Southwest Region: Stewart Pearcy, Houston TRACON (I90)
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Stewart Pearcy, pilot Phillip Kardenetz, President Paul Rinaldi, and Southwest Regional Vice President Tim Smith.

On February 25, 2013, the pilot of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk departed the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport (LBX) heading to the Bay City Municipal Airport (BYY). Weather that day called for instrument flight rules (IFR) ratings, but this pilot was only rated for Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

With ceilings at 200 feet, the pilot began climbing immediately after takeoff and got lost above a thick layer of clouds. Air traffic control didn’t have contact with him for two hours – the pilot had no autopilot, no GPS, no instrumentation to help him navigate, and every airport within 70 miles reported solid IFR conditions. Stewart Pearcy, a controller since 2008 and a pilot with commercial single and multiengine ratings, was working at Houston TRACON (I90) that day and noticed this aircraft. He reached out to a Southwest Airlines flight in his airspace and asked them to try and reach out to the disoriented pilot on the Gulf Coast Airport’s UNICOM and direct him to Pearcy’s frequency. The Southwest Airlines pilot connected with the Cessna pilot and got him in touch with Pearcy.

After Pearcy verified the aircraft and established his position, he learned that the pilot was hoping to return to an airport that was completely covered in clouds. Knowing this was not possible, Pearcy asked about remaining fuel before contacting other areas to find the best course of action. Luckily, the pilot still had two and a half hours of fuel remaining so Pearcy was able to direct him to Giddings-Lee County Airport, near Austin.

Pearcy: Skyhawk Niner Foxtrot Zulu, there is no airport in the Houston area, um, that has VFR conditions. Um, I did talk to the, uh, approach controls over at Austin Approach, and they are VFR Austin if you, uh, I think that’s going to be our best bet to just go to the west. Everything to the east is IFR at the moment.

N739FZ: Roger that. I gotta tell you, it’s very comforting, guy. I, uh, I was getting a little nervous up here.

Pearcy: Niner Foxtrot Zulu, yep, that’s no problem. We saw you out there and just glad we were able to get a hold of you and help you out. I am a pilot. I fly, uh, about 200 hours a year, I’ve been flying, um, about 10 or 12 years now, and I have, uh, almost 2000 hours of flight time.

N739FZ: I’ve got to tell you, your voice is very comforting. I was getting pretty nervous up here. Thank you so much.

Pearcy: That’s what we’re here for, sir.

From there, air traffic controllers guided the pilot all the way to a safe landing nearly three hours after the pilot took off.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

Western Pacific Region: Fred Naujoks, Joseph Okuda, Peter Sachs, Alexis Shirkey, David Caldwell, Dan Ferlito, Nicole Findlay, Russell Kipker, and Dawn McMullin, San Francisco ATCT (SFO)

On the morning of July 6, 2013, the team of air traffic controllers working at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) were busy issuing taxi instructions and takeoff and landing clearances when Asiana 214, a Boeing 777 that was on a normal visual approach to Runway 28L, crashed into the sea wall just short of the runway. The events that unfolded in the seconds and minutes after the crash were a testament to the controllers’ unparalleled commitment to ensuring the best possible outcome for the passengers and crew onboard Asiana 214.

Joseph Okuda, Alexis Shirkey, Nicole Findlay, Peter Sachs, Russell Kipker, Dawn McMullin, Fred Naujoks, Dan Ferlito, and David Caldwell were the NATCA members on duty during the incident.

“I saw what every air traffic controller never wants to see,” wrote David Caldwell. “A cloud of dust rising a hundred feet in the air and just visible through it, the bare nose of an aircraft.”

Okuda was training Kipker at the time of the incident, and calmly assumed control of the position, clearing the airspace.

Okuda: Skywest 6389, go around.

Skywest 6389: San Francisco, go around, Skywest 6389.

Okuda: Cessna 737 Zulu Delta, San Francisco Tower. Remain clear of the San Francisco Class Bravo airspace, contact San Carlos Tower.

N737ZD: Seven Zulu Delta, contacting San Carlos Tower and, uh, remain clear.

Okuda: Helicopter 30 Foxtrot, leaving the Bravo airspace in two miles, radar service terminated, squawk, maintain frequency change approved.

Shirkey quickly informed Northern California TRACON of what happened and proceeded to update them on aircraft exiting the airspace.

Shirkey: San Fran.

NorCal TRACON: This is uh, Woodside.

Shirkey: Yeah, 6389 is going around, heading 280 at 3000. We just had an aircraft crash on Runway 28 left.

Findlay fielded questions from pilots on the ground while ensuring they stayed clear of the area. She also played a pivotal role in sharing information from pilots near the crash.

Findlay: If there’s any rescue on ground frequency, there’s aircraft, or there’s people on the approach end that need help at the numbers, uh, on the approach end of Runway 28.

“I have been doing this since 1979,” wrote Caldwell. “I have seen a lot of things in my time. But I have never seen anything like this; and by this, I mean the team. We spent the rest of that day and night calling each other to make sure we were okay. To make sure we were a team.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

President’s Award: Nunzio DiMillo, Boston Tower
(From left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, pilot T.R. Wood, Nunzio DiMillo, and President Paul Rinaldi.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

BELOW: Watch and listen to highlights from this save event.

President’s Award: A Video Tribute to the First 10 Years of President’s Award Winners
Honorable Mention

Chris Moulton, Anchorage Center
Chris Benson, Carrie Jordan, Anchorage Center

Mike Ransom, Philadelphia ATCT
Dee Daniel, Potomac TRACON
Mathias Fridgen, Potomac TRACON
Maurice Franklin, Potomac TRACON
Patrick Harten, New York TRACON
Josh Heinicke, Lukas Clark, Harrisburg ATCT
Thomas J. Prestia, Morristown ATCT

Dan Acevedo, Chicago TRACON

Gary Malinko, Boston TRACON
Tina Regan, Gregg Neuendorf, Steve Soares, Boston TRACON
Tahlia Jordan, Matt Weiers, John C. Moomey, Andrew Martinez, Providence ATCT

Guy Mortensen, Salt Lake Center
Ryan Marvel, Portland TRACON
Tim Salamon, Marcus Worthen, Jeff Mickalauskas, Portland TRACON
Chris Hewitt, Paul Dehaan, Jason Morris, Seattle Center
Chris Taylor, Everett Paine Field Tower

Kevin Connelly, Peyton Nunnelly, Charlotte ATCT
Greg Childers, Atlanta TRACON
Richard Thompson, Atlanta TRACON
Jeff Wonser, Atlanta TRACON
Andrew Guba, Atlanta ATCT
David Wheeler, Tampa ATCT
Randy Drose, Tampa ATCT
Jeffrey Greer, Mobile ATCT
Kamar Robinson, David Goodnough, Fayetteville ATCT
Reggie Johnson, Brian Bidwell, Brian Paysinger, Memphis Center
Sarah Reed, Miami Center
Dan Egecrone, Atlanta Center

Jake Stout, Joseph Broome, New Orleans ATCT
Erika Henry, Monroe ATCT
Kyle Anderson, Albuquerque Center
Clayton Crafton, Tariq Quadri, R.L. Jones ATCT (Tulsa)

William “Buck” Campbell, Phoenix TRACON

Video: Highlights of the 2014 Archie League Medal of Safety Award-Winning Flight Assists

Video: A Closer Look at the 2014 Archie League Medal of Safety Award-Winning Flight Assists

Photo Album: The 10th Annual Archie League Awards Banquet

View photo album here.

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