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2017 Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners

2017 – Winners of the 13th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, honored on March 22, 2017 at Bally’s in Las Vegas:

Alaskan Region: Jessica Earp, Anchorage Center
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Jessica Earp, President Paul Rinaldi, and Alaskan Regional Vice President Clint Lancaster.

On July 25, 2016, an F-18 departed Eielson Air Force Base (EIL) following a refueling stop en route to Asia for a training exercise. Nearly two hours after takeoff, the pilot shut down one engine and declared an emergency [due to an aircraft malfunction]. The pilot operated the second engine at reduced power in order to conserve fuel and immediately turned back toward EIL. A second F-18 flying with the aircraft also turned back. The tanker that had accompanied the aircraft was unable to break off and give the aircraft in distress additional fuel at the time, because it was refueling a different F-18 in the group. By the time the tanker was able to break from the group, the emergency was too far away for the tanker to catch up.

FEUD65: …We cannot maintain the 3-6-0. We are in a full descent.

The weather surrounding the Aleutian Islands was poor, and most airports were reporting only a quarter-mile visibility. The F-18 pilot attempted to find an airport with a runway long enough to land, and decided to head to King Salmon Airport (AKN), which has an 8,900-foot long runway.

With low fuel and a bad weather situation on the ground, the pilot was desperate to get the aircraft on the ground. Anchorage Center (ZAN) controller Jessica Earp took quick action and suggested nearby St. Paul Airport (SNP). The airport has a 6,500-foot runway and was reporting VFR (visual flight rules) conditions at the time. St. Paul Island is a small, 40-square mile island in the Bering Sea.

Earp: FEUD65 Roger. Now, if you need a closer airport I do have…there’s an airport about 80 miles to the southeast, St. Paul. I can get runway distance if you need and conditions.

FEUD65: Affirm. We need all that.

The pilot had not considered St. Paul until Earp suggested the airport. Because of deteriorating conditions, she was looking to ditch the F-18 in the ocean in hope of a water rescue. When Earp relayed to the pilot that SNP reported VFR conditions, the pilot was anxious to head that way. Earp issued a heading and the pilot was able to get the airport in sight and land without incident.

Without Earp’s quick thinking, the pilot would have had to ditch the F-18 in the middle of the ocean. Her knowledge of ZAN airspace and the airports within it prevented a potentially tragic outcome.

Alaskan Regional Vice President Clint Lancaster:

“Unfortunately, this pilot was faced with one of the worst of all flight emergency scenarios, dumping an aircraft into the Bering Sea in hope of a water rescue. When it was the most crucial time for our controller to complete the picture for this pilot, Jessica calmly and efficiently provided all necessary information to the pilot. That information offered an alternative scenario that most likely saved the pilot’s life and most certainly saved the aircraft. I am extremely proud to represent such a dedicated professional out of the Alaskan Region.”

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BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Anchorage Daily News
Alaska Public Media

Central Region: Andrew Cullen and Jeffrey R. Volski, Kansas City Center
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Jeffrey Volski, Andrew Cullen, President Paul Rinaldi, and Central Regional Vice President Kevin Peterson.

On Dec. 16, 2016, a Cirrus SR22 departed from Hannibal Regional Airport (HAE) with plans to land at Jefferson City Memorial Airport (JEF).

When the pilot checked in with Kansas City Center (ZKC), he immediately made a request to return to HAE due to severe icing he encountered after takeoff. As ZKC controller Andrew Cullen provided assistance on the D-side position, fellow ZKC controller Jeffrey R. Volski established the aircraft on the RNAV Runway 17 approach and issued the pilot instructions for an approach. The pilot lost visual contact with the field after attempting to execute a circle approach to Runway 35.

Volski: 7HR roger. You just take all your concentration to land and just give me a call through flight service when you get clear.

7HR: Okay. I’m gonna need your help a little bit more here, sir.

Volski: All right. You’re radar contact lost 7HR. Last I picked you up, you were a half mile north of the airport.

After the first missed approach, Volski identified the aircraft on radar and provided navigational assistance and headings for the RNAV Runway 35 approach. Volski gave as much information as possible to the pilot to assist with handling the aircraft that was still experiencing icing. Volski was also responsible for working other aircraft in an especially busy sector during this incident. The pilot had difficulty holding altitude during the approach, but was able to land the aircraft safely.

Volski: Track looks good now. You look like you’re just about lined up for the runway now.

Volski: 7HR radar contact lost. You’re just about two more miles from the airport and you look to be lined up perfectly with the runway.

7HR: Roger 7HR.

Volski and Cullen did an outstanding job providing assistance and reassurance to the pilot through two approach attempts. Volski calmly issued navigational assistance and instruction throughout, ensuring a positive outcome to a challenging flight situation.

Central Region Vice President Kevin Peterson:

“Jeffrey and Andrew both did an outstanding job working N7HR. Andrew was key in assisting Jeffrey, and Jeffrey’s quick action and calm voice helped this potentially dangerous situation have a positive outcome. They both displayed professionalism and great decision-making skills when helping the pilot. I am extremely proud to call them my brothers.”

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BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Eastern Region: Jaymi Steinberg and Richard Wallace, Washington Center
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Jeffrey Volski, Andrew Cullen, President Paul Rinaldi, and Central Regional Vice President Kevin Peterson.

On March 27, 2016, Raleigh-Durham (RDU) approach handed off a Piper PA-23-250 to the South Boston sector at Washington Center (ZDC). The pilot encountered marginal weather after departing from Charleston International Airport (CHS). Originally he was destined for Martin State Airport (MTN) near Baltimore, but was looking for a closer airport that had VFR (visual flight rules) conditions as the aircraft had lost its directional gyro and attitude indicator.

ZDC controller Jaymi Steinberg coordinated the handoff and relayed important information to fellow ZDC controller Richard Wallace, who issued no-gyro vectors to the pilot and attempted to find the closest airport with VFR conditions. As Wallace and Steinberg found information on nearby airports, the pilot reported another serious issue: his right engine had abruptly lost power. After switching fuel tanks, power briefly was restored to the engine, until the pilot suffered an abrupt loss of power in both engines.

N22AM: Mayday. Mayday. I just lost my engines.

Wallace: All right. Is that 2AM?

N22AM: 2AM I lost ‘em both.

Wallace responded immediately and began to navigate him to the closest airport. The pilot stated he did not think he could remain airborne and needed a road or something similar on which he could land.

Wallace pulled out sectional charts and began to look for the closest highway. Wallace pointed out Highway 58 in southern Virginia and attempted to inform the pilot that the area has terrain obstructions. However, the aircraft was below ZDC frequency coverage.

Wallace: The minimum vectoring altitude in that area is 3,100 feet. There are a lot of terrain and mountains there and there is Route 58 that goes to Danville. You probably should be pretty close there. It runs east-westbound maybe a mile or two off your left or right side.

Wallace: Greensboro 230.

Greensboro: Greensboro west.

Wallace: Hey listen. That guy is coming down. Is there a highway or something that you could point me towards right there?

Soon after, the pilot performed a forced landing onto the median of the highway, 10 miles east of Danville, Va. During the landing, the aircraft impacted a tree and came to a stop upside-down. The pilot sustained minor injuries while the three passengers on board were uninjured. Wallace and Steinberg’s determination to get the pilot navigational, weather, and highway information was essential to getting the aircraft on the ground safely. Without their coordinated efforts, the incident may have resulted in loss of life.

Eastern Region Vice President Dean Iacopelli:

“This year’s Eastern Region winners highlight the seriousness of what we do every day within the National Airspace System. Richard and Jaymi’s professionalism and ability to think clearly through a potentially disastrous situation shone through. All of us are proud that our work as safety professionals is represented by our dedicated bother and sister out of the Eastern Region.”

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BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Great Lakes Region: David Stempien, Cleveland Center
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, President Paul Rinaldi, David Stempien, pilot William Reid and his wife, and Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis.

On Oct. 1, 2016, a Beechcraft 35-33 was on Cleveland Center (ZOB) frequency, climbing to a requested 9,000 feet. Five minutes later, an open microphone broadcast the sound of panic as a weather anomaly caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft.

N305Z: Help [unreadable]. [heavy breathing] [screaming]. Let go of the yoke. Let go of the yoke. Let go of the yoke. [unreadable].

Stempien: All right. Is everybody okay 305Z? You all right?

Stempien: N305Z, are you with Cleveland?

ZOB Morgantown sector radar controller David Stempien immediately recognized the call was from the aircraft and attempted to assist the pilot, asking several times if he was okay. With each radar update, the altitude readout told a terrifying story: 8,100; 7,400; 8,500; 7,800; 6,900; and, finally, 5,000 feet.

Eventually, the pilot responded and Stempien issued guidance to “follow your instruments,” and “trust your instruments,” in an effort to help the pilot regain control.

The aircraft had gotten into a very bad updraft that caused the pilot to completely lose control. The pilot said, “I went way up, no matter what I did it was still climbing and then all the sudden it let go the other way.” Stempien responded, “You’re fine. You’re fine. I’m showing you level at 5,000 now.”

After Stempien was sure the pilot had regained control of the aircraft, he asked the pilot if the aircraft had sustained any damage. The fuel covers being open indicated that the aircraft had completely rolled.

Stempien: N305Z you don’t have any damage to the aircraft or anything like that, do you?

N305Z: The only thing that I see is my wing tip fuel door. The fuel covers are open but the…plugs are still in place. I’m not losing fuel out there.

Stempien: Roger. Sounds good. We do have, you know, multiple airports around your area if you do feel the need to land. I’ve got that. Ton of options for you. Just let us know.

The pilot and Stempien discussed airport options and weather conditions before the pilot decided to land at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pa. (LBE).

The aircraft landed safely at LBE and telephoned ZOB, recounting his experience with the operations manager. The pilot was very grateful to Stempien for his assistance, saying, “I appreciate the help, you were right there. Thank you so much!”

N305Z departed LBE just over an hour later and continued to the original destination for a visit with family.

Great Lakes Region Vice President Bryan Zilonis:

“I am always humbled by the ability of our members to demonstrate such calm and professional demeanor under pressure. David remained resolute in his efforts to assist the pilot of N305Z despite the jarring nature of the event. I am extremely proud of his focus during the event and his follow-through after the event to assist the pilot. It is a testament to the dedication of all professionals in the Great Lakes Region.”

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BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Great Lakes Region: Eric Vanstrom, Fort Wayne ATCT
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Eric Vanstrom, President Paul Rinaldi, and Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis.

In this dramatic flight assist, a Piper PA-32R-301T lost navigation during a severe weather incident. The pilot was unable to correct course on his own and was in a circling descent. Fort Wayne (FWA) controller Eric Vanstrom immediately identified that the aircraft was in distress and began issuing navigational aid. The pilot informed Vanstrom that they were having trouble with the VSI (vertical speed indicator).

Due to the poor weather, Vanstrom recommended the pilot change course to Portland, Ind. Municipal Airport (PLD), which was reporting VFR conditions, and set the pilot up on an RNAV Runway 9 approach.

Vanstrom: Cherokee 63W, fly straight. Just stop the turn and fly straight from right there. Let me know what your heading…what you think it is. Just fly straight from right there, level flight.

N4363W: Yeah, rog…roger. Now we’re showing tracking 1-3-1. We’re having an issue with our VSI, 63W.

Vanstrom: Okay, roger that. Just continue the 1-3-0 heading for now. We’ll get you set up for the approach down in Portland.

The pilot continued to appear disoriented and had trouble maintaining steady flight on final approach. Vanstrom watched the aircraft perform multiple circles and altitude changes, which caused several passes below the minimum vectoring altitude (MVA). Vanstrom calmly issued corrective headings and altitudes and made sure that the pilot had weather information for PLD.

Vanstrom: Cherokee 63W, the airport is 11 o’clock, and five miles. You’re still on us, so UNICOM the frequency, the three clicks isn’t going to turn on the lights yet. We’re calling somebody now at the airport to see if they can do that. Do you want to switch to UNICOM to try that, or do you want to stay with me? It’s at 11 o’clock and five miles.

N4363W: We can go over to UNICOM. Can you give me the frequency real quick?

Vanstrom: All right. Cherokee 63W, your IFR will not be canceled. UNICOM for Portland is 122.8, 22.8. The airport is 12 o’clock and about three to four miles, or actually just off your left, 11 o’clock. Change to 22.8 and then come back, okay?

N4363W: Affirmative.

Vanstrom continued to issue no gyro vectors until the aircraft dropped out of frequency range. Vanstrom had remained with the pilot for the duration of the event, lasting nearly two hours. After continuing to issue important airport and weather information in hopes the pilot would hear it, another pilot eventually relayed that the aircraft was safely on the ground.

Great Lakes Region Vice President Bryan Zilonis:

“Eric’s patience and consistent direction to the pilot of N4363W highlights the very best of us in our profession. He displayed exceptional decision-making throughout the event and got the aircraft to better weather conditions, ensuring the safety of the pilot throughout a dangerous situation. Events like this one make me even more proud to represent controllers like Eric from the Great Lakes Region.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

New England Region: Eric J. Knight and Ross Leshinsky, Boston ATCT
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Eric J. Knight, Ross Leshinsky, President Paul Rinaldi, and New England Regional Vice President Mike Robicheau.

On the evening of Oct. 20, 2016, Boston (BOS) Logan Airport was set in an uncommon configuration due to weather and low ceilings: Controllers were running ILS (instrument landing system) approaches to Runway 4R, while ILS approaches to 15R were circling to land on 4L.

The tower already was short-staffed, when they got a call from a local hospital that the front line manager’s wife had been in an accident and he needed to leave. (She was not seriously injured.)

A Piedmont Airlines De Havilland Dash 8-300 aircraft was making the circle approach to 4L when the CIC (controller in charge), Eric J. Knight, and LCW (local control west) controller Ross Leshinsky noticed that the aircraft was on an abnormal profile. The aircraft was lower than usual with this approach. Leshinsky noticed the aircraft did not have its landing lights on and asked the pilot to check his gear.

Everyone in the tower kept an especially careful eye on the aircraft as it was on its short base over the channel. The aircraft came in on a short dogleg. When the plane rolled out with less than an eighth of a mile to go, it was actually lined up for Taxiway B instead of 4L. What happened next occurred in a matter of seconds.

Leshinsky: 4872, go around. Go around. Go around now! Go around.

PDT4872: I’m goin’ around 4872.

Leshinsky: 4872 climb and maintain three thousand.

It was Knight who noticed immediately that the aircraft was lined up for the taxiway. After Leshinsky issued the go-around instruction, the aircraft began to pull up and flew over a JetBlue aircraft that was on the taxiway.

The controllers’ teamwork and attention to detail working a busy traffic area prevented a potentially devastating outcome.

New England Region Vice President Mike Robicheau:

“Logan Tower has many unique challenges due to its compact runway space. Being able to identify an aircraft landing at night with no lights turned on is hard enough already, let alone having the ability to immediately identify when the aircraft begins to go off course from the runway to the taxiway. Leshinsky and Knight’s experience and lightning-fast instincts saved lives that day. I am extremely proud of both of my New England Region brothers.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Northwest Mountain Region: Aaron Grijalva, Denver TRACON
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Aaron Grijalva, President Paul Rinaldi, and Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Doug Pincock.

On Dec. 11, 2016, a student pilot of a Cessna 172S checked in on Denver TRACON (D01) frequency. Controller Aaron Grijalva began working the aircraft in the Satellite Radar 4 area. The pilot was difficult to understand and requested flight following in the Centennial Airport (APA) area and navigational aid to Pueblo Memorial Airport (PUB). The student pilot was having a difficult time navigating through the clouds and repeatedly asked to be vectored around them.

N5327J: Um, is there any way you [unreadable], I can vector around the clouds?

Grijalva: And 27J, if you’re asking about…if…are you asking us if we can vector you around the clouds? Is that what you’re asking?

N5327J: Yeah.

Grijalva: 27J, unfortunately I’m…I’m not able to see the clouds.

Grijalva remained calm and explained the limitations of radar to the student pilot, offering several options, including returning to APA. He inquired about the aircraft’s flight conditions and the student pilot’s intentions, as the aircraft seemed to be off course and not making progress towards the destination. The pilot seemed a little disorientated and unclear on what he should do. Grijalva also is a pilot and provided guidance and weather conditions, as well as basic flight maneuvers to the student pilot.

His expertise helped the pilot stabilize the aircraft and navigate back towards APA, where the weather was reported to be better. The student pilot again asked to continue on to PUB, but Grijalva used his judgment and ability to reason to convince the student pilot to return the aircraft to the ground and make sure they were ready to conduct the flight.

N5327J: Um, is there a place [unreadable] Pueblo?

Grijalva: Skyhawk 27J, ah, are you sure you want to do that? It seems like we had a lot of trouble getting you around those clouds, are you…are you sure you want to just double check? Maybe wait another try? Centennial is there 11 o’clock and six miles if you want to just wait it out a bit.

N5327J: Okay.

The aircraft is based at the flight school at APA. After the incident, Grijalva was able to contact the pilot’s flight instructor. The certified flight instructor said the pilot would be retrained on navigation and radio procedures before advancing in their flight-training program.

Northwest Mountain Region Vice President Doug Pincock:

“A disoriented pilot presents a challenging situation for any controller, especially when the pilot is inexperienced. Aaron was able to rely on his years as a controller and pilot to help N5327J return safely to Centennial Airport. I am extremely proud to have such a skilled and dedicated professional representing the Northwest Mountain Region.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Southern Region: Keith Tyus, Nichole Surunis, Mason Braddock, Patrick Burrows, and Clay Sutton, Atlanta TRACON
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Patrick Burrows, Nichole Surunis, Mason Braddock, Keith Tyus, Clay Sutton, pilot Cathy Lewan, Southern Regional Vice President Jim Marinitti, and President Paul Rinaldi.

On Feb. 14, 2016, the pilot of a Cessna 172S departed from Madison Municipal Airport (52A) to conduct aerial photography at a location 10 miles southwest of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL). The pilot, Cathy Lewan, contacted Atlanta TRACON (A80) and controller Patrick Burrows to advise her location and declare an emergency due to a malfunction. The throttle was stuck in the max power setting.

Burrows briefed the controller in charge (CIC), Clay Sutton, who immediately established specific duties for team members during this emergency. First, Mason Braddock was briefed on the situation and advised that the pilot would be contacting him due to the greatly improved frequency reception. Next, Sutton reassigned Nichole Surunis to assist Braddock.

Braddock continued to communicate with Lewan, at times reminding her to watch her airspeed and continually reassuring her. Sutton and Front Line Manager Bryant Vaughan decided that a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) should provide additional service. There fortunately was one on Burrows’ frequency who heard the initial distress call. He came onto Braddock’s frequency and Tyus worked with Braddock to help advise Lewan. The CFI advised that she make a gradual descent to the runway in an effort to keep airspeed down, then once over the runway threshold, pull the mixture to shut down the engine.

N7266D: Affirmative, affirmative. I’m going to circle west here at two thousand, I’m going to come in for 10, and I’m going to cut power. But I’m going to stay with you cause you’re going to tell me when and, um, thank you for your help.

As the aircraft was circling, the pilot spotted the ARFF (aviation rescue and firefighting) emergency vehicles staged at Runway 10. Braddock, in a calm and reassuring voice, assured her that he was there for her and everything was going to be fine.

N7266D: I should be able to knock this out. I’m so…am so sorry for all those emergency people sitting down there waiting on me.

Braddock: N66D, that is absolutely the reason we’re here. We’re here for you.

Traffic Management Unit (TMU) Specialist Keith Tyus, who also is a CFI, was brought on to further assess the situation. Tyus monitored the situation and provided valuable information to the team from a skilled pilot’s perspective.

Once the pilot had re-established the aircraft on final and began the approach, Braddock provided reassurance and wind checks until it was confirmed that the aircraft landed safely.

Southern Region Vice President Jim Marinitti:

“The actions taken on this day are the epitome of teamwork, professionalism, and skill. Controllers from different facilities, the A80 Traffic Management Unit, and Cathy worked together to address the situation at hand and bring about a positive outcome. It’s been said many times that you never know when an aircraft might declare an emergency, but the controllers at A80 showed why training is so important. Each person played a vital role in ensuring that Cathy Lewan and her aircraft landed safely. It was a proud day for aviation and our profession.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Southwest Region: Patrick M. Armstrong, Dallas/Fort Worth TRACON
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Patrick Armstrong, President Paul Rinaldi, and Southwest Regional Vice President Andrew LeBovidge.

On March 10, 2016, a Beechcraft B35 was on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan from El Paso Airport (ELP) to Grand Prairie Airport (GPM). The pilot was having trouble landing at GPM, and checked in on frequency with Dallas/Fort Worth TRACON (D10). D10 controller Patrick Armstrong immediately began working with him.

Over the course of this event, the pilot twice attempted the only instruments approach available into Grand Prairie – RNAV/GPS Runway 35. The weather for Grand Prairie was five miles visibility, light rain, and ceilings overcast at 800 feet.

The pilot was having difficulty maintaining altitude and headings while attempting to fly the RNAV/GPS approaches. After two unsuccessful attempts, the pilot advised that he had only 10 minutes of fuel remaining, making the imminent situation all the more pressing. Patrick quickly thought of all his options and offered the pilot an ILS approach at neighboring Arlington Municipal Airport (KGKY). The pilot concurred with Armstrong and was vectored for the ILS approach into Arlington.

Armstrong: Just get yourself set up, sir. Just orient. Just fly your present heading, don’t turn the aircraft anymore. Just fly your present heading and maintain two thousand.

Armstrong: 46A climb and maintain two thousand three hundred. What is your heading, sir?

N8846A: I’m heading 1-7-0. Um, I’m…I’m fuel critical now. I’m…I’m getting worried.

Armstrong, knowing that the pilot did not have time to get the weather or to find the Arlington ILS approach plate, issued weather and approach plate information to the pilot. Armstrong coordinated with Arlington tower, received and issued a landing clearance, and worked the aircraft to a successful landing.

N8846A: In sight through the clouds. Thank you for your help.

Armstrong: 46A you’re very welcome, sir. Cleared to land Runway 34. You can just stay on this frequency for now.

N8846A: Roger that, 46A.

The pilot later called the TRACON to talk with and thank Armstrong for saving his life. He even offered Armstrong three steak dinners at restaurants of his choice for the three nights the pilot was in town.

Southwest Region Vice President Andrew LeBovidge:

“The work that Patrick did truly exemplifies the commitment to safety and service that is the hallmark of our profession. His calm and steady communication to the pilot ensured a safe outcome. The manner in which Patrick assisted the pilot in distress is the epitome of the professionalism and dedication all controllers have to the system and the flying public.”

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Western Pacific Region: Brian Bond, Aaron C. Fones, and Carlton Wickstrom, Phoenix TRACON
(Left to right) Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, Brian Bond, Aaron Fones, Carlton Wickstrom, Western Pacific Regional Vice President Hamid Ghaffari, and President Paul Rinaldi.

On Jan. 19, 2016, a winter weather system was moving through the northern half of Arizona. It brought snow, gusty winds, low ceilings, and moderate turbulence throughout the affected airspace sectors of Phoenix TRACON (P50).

That evening, Carlton Wickstrom received a call from Albuquerque Center (ZAB). The controller advised Wickstrom that a Cessna 172S en route to Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR) was having trouble maintaining an assigned heading.

Wickstrom advised the pilot that Prescott (PRC) was 35 miles to the east if that was an option she would like to look at. The pilot indicated she would like to try for PRC.

Wickstrom began to issue no-gyro vectors to get her pointed back towards PRC.

Wickstrom: Skyhawk 7ME, does it appear your instruments are working, ma’am?

N347ME: 7ME I mean, it appears so but I know I’m getting tossed around a lot, so it probably doesn’t look like it on your end.

Wickstrom: Skyhawk 7ME, just want to make sure you’re getting a good indication that you’re receiving a good vacuum on the suction gauge and that, uh, your altitude indicator appears to be working normally.

During this time, front line manager Doug Hart sought the help of two experienced pilots. Aaron C. Fones was moved to provide technical assistance. Brian Bond was also paged back to the control room. Hart, who himself is a pilot, displayed outstanding awareness in bringing these assets into the situation.

Fones took over talking on the frequency to the aircraft. He once again asked if her wings were level and instructed her to add as much power as she could and start a gradual climb.

A mountain peak with an elevation of 7,900 feet is approximately eight miles to the west of PRC. Fones calmly issued no-gyro vectors to get the pilot turned to the left and pointed towards the airport.

Fones: I just want you to start a descent. I want you to make a slight power reduction and continue straight ahead and start descending.

N347ME: 7ME roger that. Um, I have noticed that my vertical speed, um, is completely lost. I think that what’s wondered off. Uh, it’s saying that it…it’s actually, uh, it’s a climb but it’s a descent. So…

Fones: All right. 7ME, the tower says they can see you. Are you able to see the airport?

PRC tower called and advised that the aircraft was in sight and Fones switched her to PRC tower frequency.

Western Pacific Region Vice President Ham Ghaffari:

“Quite often, the difference between a routine flight assist and a potential emergency situation is how we’re able to react to the situation and keep it from evolving into a dangerous situation. In this case, the total team support and calmness under fire displayed by the controllers prevented a routine flight assist from developing into a dangerous situation. I am incredibly proud of the teamwork and professionalism displayed by these gentlemen.”

Read and watch media coverage of this save event.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

President’s Award: Eric J. Knight and Ross Leshinsky, Boston ATCT
(Left to right) President Paul Rinaldi, Ross Leshinsky, pilot – Capt. David Dishman , Eric J. Knight, and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert.

BELOW: Watch the award presentation.

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

Honorable Mention

Zach Johnson, Anchorage Center (ZAN)

Eric Burrill, Kansas City Center (ZKC)
Nick Cook, Tabatha Throckmorton, Aaron Yurko, ZKC
Grant Gregory, ZKC
Jessica Hermsdorfer, ZKC
John Petrulis, Jim Owens, ZKC
Jennifer Umphenour, ZKC
Jason White, Brett Hansen, Grant Monnig, Mike Schneider, ZKC

Michael Bell, Potomac TRACON (PCT)
Heather Hruz, Steven Schraner, New York Center (ZNY)
John Kambach, New York TRACON (N90)
Chris Mitrotasios, Edward Aponte, Newark ATCT (EWR)
David Moosa, Quintarius Searcy, Sherry Brown, Jean Droz, Huntington ATCT (HTS)

Stephen McGreevy, Ben Madsen, Chicago Center (ZAU)
Eric Miner, Chicago Midway ATCT (MDW)
Matt Reavis, John Perczak, Detroit ATCT (DTW)

Tyler Ellis, James Clem, Salt Lake Center (ZLC)
Melissa Stauffer, Seattle Center (ZSE)

Christian Cambridge, Yandor Ramirez, Ryan Hultgren, Miami ATCT (MIA)
Adam Garrison, Ryan Hampton, Greensboro ATCT (GSO)
Matt Kilgore, Adam Franks, Joe Lavender, Thalha Choudhury, David Ellis, Ryan Hughes, Charlotte ATCT (CLT)
Jeremiah Lee, Memphis Center (ZME)
Michael Tracey, Adam Jones, Jessie Small, Matt Miller, ZME

Natalie Hart, Houston TRACON (I90)
Dave Kazyaka, Fort Worth Center (ZFW)
Creg Kincaid, Joseph Kliebert, Shreveport ATCT (SHV)
Alexander Kreer, Christian Espinoza, Zachary Beard, Albuquerque Center (ZAB)
Roy Raines, San Antonio ATCT (SAN)
Ron Sorum, Ivan Rodriguez, Starsky Smith, Patrick Riley, I90

Paul Brooks, Kalaeloa ATCT (JRF)
Adam Fabarez, Los Angeles Center (ZLA)
Misty Maddox, Tucson TRACON (U90)
William Mitchell, Eddie Yurus, Southern California TRACON (SCT)
Greg Schildmeier, ZLA
Kathy Treadway-Hobiger, Van Nuys ATCT (VNY)
David Villegas, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway ATCT (FFZ)

Photo Album

View our photo album from the awards banquet.

Video: Introductory Remarks by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta
Video: Highlights Compilation

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