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2023 Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners

2023 Winners of the 19th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards

Alaskan Region: Joseph “WW” Howard, Anchorage TRACON (A11)
Sept 20, 2023: Images from NATCA’s 19th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards during the Communicating for Safety Conference at Horseshoe Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV.

Written by Jennifer Malloy, Cleveland Center (ZOB)

On Oct. 26, 2022, Joseph “WW” Howard was working South and Final Radar combined at Anchorage TRACON (A11) when N212US departed Anchorage Runway 7L IF to Homer, AK. N212US was approximately 15 miles south of Anchorage at 6,000 feet when their transponder stopped working, and A11 could no longer hear nor broadcast to the aircraft.  Joseph tried multiple times to contact the aircraft in addition to Guard frequency. Additionally, Joseph noticed that the aircraft was deviating from their assigned course and was trying to problem-solve the situation.

Initially, the thought was the aircraft was receiver only and not able to broadcast. Joseph had another aircraft on frequency, UPS 60, reach out to the aircraft with no luck. With limited options and control of the aircraft Joseph relied on and trusted his ATC and pilot experience to assist the aircraft to the maximum extent possible.

As the situation continued, it became more apparent that N212US could not hear ATC, Joseph was calm, cool, and collected and treated the situation as though the pilot was listening on the other end.

Once N212US regained radio communications, the aircraft experienced complete avionics failure. Anchorage International was not experiencing great weather, and Joseph went through the weather options attempting to figure out the best option to land. No gyro vectors ensued as navigational equipment was not reliable along with altitudes.

N212US was then no gyro vectored inbound to Anchorage International and was then given an ILS clearance followed by a visual approach clearance. The aircraft landed without incident and was taxied to parking.

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winner for the Alaskan Region Joseph “WW” Howard!

– Alaskan Regional Vice President Clint Lancaster

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

Podcast below: Hear Owens, Rolofson, and Rosenbaum tell their story, in this episode of the NATCA Podcast.

Central Region: Daniel Clifton, Kansas City International ATCT (MCI); John “Casey” Hovis, St. Louis TRACON (T75), formerly at MCI; Tyler Wilke, MCI; and Matt Williams, MCI

Written by Bryan Martini, Sioux Gateway Airport (SUX)

On June 21, 2022, at approximately 10:40 a.m. CT, Kansas City Center (ZKC) called the TRACON at Kansas City International ATCT (MCI). ZKC had reports of an aircraft pilot calling “Mayday” on 121.5. The pilot had radioed, “Mayday, Mayday. This is Experimental N314LB with an engine about to fail.”

Answering the call in the MCI TRACON was Departure East Sector controller Tyler Wilke. Tyler reached out on 121.5 and found the aircraft. N314LB, an experimental that departed Aero County Airport (T31) in McKinney, Texas, enroute to Boone Municipal Airport (BNW) in Boone, Iowa, was experiencing severe engine problems.

With hopes of establishing better radio communication, Tyler attempted to have the pilot change frequencies to 118.4, the satellite sector. However, either unable or unwilling to make the frequency change, the pilot would remain with Tyler. Without hesitation, Tyler began to point out the nearest airports to the pilot; Cameron Memorial Airport (EZZ) in Cameron, Mo., and Midwest National Air Center (GPH) in Excelsior Springs, Mo.

Realizing the complexity of the situation, MCI controller in charge Matt Williams called the tower cab and instructed local controller John “Casey” Hovis to put all departure traffic on the satellite sector’s frequency to decrease Tyler’s workload.

The N314LB pilot reported that his engine problems were getting worse and that he was looking for a field to land on but could not find one large enough. Matt had the satellite controller reach out to a VFR aircraft in the vicinity to serve as a spotting plane in the event the pilot was forced to land in a field. N62NG had just departed GPH and was willing to assist. Satellite sent N62NG towards N314LB as Tyler continued to advise the pilot of EZZ and GPH.

Monitoring the situation from the tower cab, Casey, who also is a hobby pilot, called down to advise that if the pilot followed Interstate 35 north, it would take him directly to Cameron Airport. After being advised of I-35, the pilot stated his intention to land on the highway in the event, as the pilot stated, “the engine blows up.” Cameron Airport, however, would be the pilot’s landing preference.

During this time, Matt called MCI air traffic controller Daniel Clifton off break to open an additional scope and take Departure East’s traffic, leaving Tyler able to work N314LB uninterrupted.

After arming the pilot with the current wind and pertinent information about Cameron Airport, Tyler was able to vector the aircraft towards Cameron, leaving an I-35 landing as a backup plan. Fortunately, the pilot reported Cameron in sight and began his approach to Runway 17 under the watchful eye of the VFR spotting aircraft, N62NG. Word of N31LB’s safe landing was relayed to Tyler and the rest of the team.

As relief spread through the TRACON, aircraft on frequency can be heard commending ATC on another job well done.

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the Central Region Daniel Clifton, John “Casey” Hovis, Tyler Wilke, and Matt Williams!

– Central Regional Vice President Aaron Merrick

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

Podcast below: Hear tell their story, in this episode of the NATCA Podcast.

Eastern Region: Kamil Kulakowski, New York Center (ZNY)

Written by Jaymi Steinberg, Washington Center (ZDC)

On March 3, 2023, New York Center (ZNY) air traffic controller Kamil Kulakowski was working a high-altitude sector. This sector contains Phillipsburg VORTAC (PSB), a major transition fix, where a majority of the aircraft flying through transit. Aside from blustery winds that day, it was operations as usual.

American Airlines Flight 3 (AAL3) departed Newark Airport heading west to Los Angeles International Airport.

To optimize traffic flow in the sector, AAL3 was given a shortcut direct to Lincoln, Neb., on their route of flight. This shortcut routed AAL3 just north of PSB instead of directly abeam, as it was flight planned. Simultaneously, Sunwing 312 (SWG312) departed from Ottawa, Canada, heading south to Cuba on a route over PSB at which point the aircraft was supposed to make a turn to the southwest. Everything was routine operations until SWG312 reached PSB and executed a southeast bound turn instead of their filed route, placing the aircraft towards AAL3. 

As soon as SWG312 began their errant turn, Kamil jumped into action turning AAL3 north. He said, “American’s response was just perfect. Right on the ball. I started acting on what I needed to do. I went straight to American 3 and turned them to a right heading.” Thankfully the American aircraft responded immediately and initiated the turn.

Recognizing the situation brewing, ZNY controller in charge Mike Cseri assigned Kamil a D-Side (or as ZNY calls the position, an H-Side) air traffic controller, Rick Santos, to assist sector operations. Kamil adds, “Rick Santos quickly arrived on my H-Side. He started helping me out, started doing the point outs.”

It took multiple attempts to contact Sunwing and have the aircraft start a turn away from the American flight. In addition to the lateral separation Kamil was initiating, both aircraft received a TCAS Resolution Advisory leading to vertical separation as well. Once the two aircraft were safely separated, AAL3 was cleared back on course and Kamil worked to troubleshoot what had just transpired and why.

Sunwing was following the route that they believed was their cleared flight plan. Their flight plan route did not match the flight plan route Kamil had been provided. This led to the aircraft making an unexpected turn. Throughout the event, Kamil remained calm and patient with safety as his number one priority.

NATCA ZNY Vice President Cory Davids said, “Kamil demonstrates the epitome of what a professional air traffic controller should be.” This sentiment was echoed by ZNY FacRep Jason Felser, “Kamil’s actions that day prevented a potential significant safety event. He is a dedicated NATCA member, who embodies what it means to be a brother of this Union. NATCA ZNY is proud that he has been recognized and selected for this award.” 

“Due to Kamil Kulakowski’s quick actions and no hesitation, the aircraft continued onto their destinations safely,” Cseri said at the time.

Kamil would like to thank Mike Cseri and Rick Santos for their quick thinking and assistance on that day. He would like to further thank ZNY and Area D for their support. 

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winner for the Eastern Region Kamil Kulakowski!

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

PODCAST: Hear discuss this event.

Great Lakes Region: JJ Lytton, Indianapolis Center (ZID)
Sept 20, 2023: Images from NATCA’s 19th Annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards during the Communicating for Safety Conference at Horseshoe Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV.

Written by Jennifer Malloy, Cleveland Center (ZOB)

Sirrus N940TS departed Naperville for Kissimmee Florida early on the morning of Jan. 9, 2023. Around Indianapolis, the oxygen in the pressurized Sirrus began to dissipate. Over the course of the next 15-20 minutes the effects of being oxygen deprived began to take their toll on the pilot. When veteran controller from Indianapolis Center (ZID), JJ Lytton first switched N940TS to the next sector, there was no fluctuation in normalcy. However, the pilot never made the switch. The next sector PVD’d N940TS to JJ, indicating informally that the aircraft had not made the voice switch over. Again, JJ attempted to switch the aircraft. This time he noticed something was off in the pilot’s voice.

He then alerted his supervisor. The next sector called to coordinate with JJ and he told them that the aircraft sounded disoriented and that something was off. After communicating with the pilot again, he decided that the aircraft was in distress and began working towards a solution. He coordinated with the next sector and secured lower and control on the aircraft. His d-side began coordinating with surrounding sectors to mitigate frequency congestion. They also had pulled up the emergency suggestions in ERIDS and started sorting through the information on hypoxia. The operation’s manager was notified, and he went in search of a pilot to bring down to the sector in order to lend a hand.

JJ told the pilot to put on his oxygen mask. He repeated the word oxygen several times to make sure the pilot got the message. A short time later, the pilot had the oxygen mask on and was sounding a little bit clearer and more aware. The hypoxia, in this instance, did not just manifest with speech. We later learned from the pilot that he had lost control of his physical faculties. He stated he would tell his arms to move and perform an instruction, it would take a long time to get a limb to move, by the time it was moving he had forgotten what he was supposed to be doing. Repeatedly, calmly, and clearly, JJ instructed the pilot to descend to 11,000 ft.

JJ stayed calm, patient, and focused while trying to think of other ways to get through to the pilot. By this time, Sean Edlund, TMU, had come down to the area to assist. Sean was the pilot located by the operation’s manager to assist. He suggested that the pilot check his auto pilot and asked him to verify oxygen was flowing through his mask. The comments about the auto pilot, after the second time, finally prompted the pilot to make the necessary adjustments to his auto pilot to begin descent.

Once the plane was below 16,000 ft., the pilot reported that he was feeling much better. Shortly after that the plane lost comm due to frequency coverage. The pilots of SKW4794 had been listening to this emergency and offered to help relay a message to N940TS. They were successful in getting N940TS to switch frequency to a sector with better radio coverage. He checked in feeling fine. He landed without further incident.

JJ’s exceptional performance resulted in a timely recognition of the symptoms of hypoxia and ultimately resulted in saving the N940TS pilot’s life. He was calm, collected, patient and decisive about what needed to be done in order to accomplish this. This stellar display of professionalism reflects great credit upon himself and the profession.

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winner for the Great Lakes Region JJ Lytton! 

– Great Lakes Regional Vice President Drew MacQueen 

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

Listen below as Allan recounts the full story on an episode of The NATCA Podcast.

New England Region: Charles “Chuck” J. Lumia, Jr., Formerly at Bradley International Airport (BDL), Now at Yankee TRACON (Y90); and Jeremy R. Wilson, Y90

Written by Shannon Lyman, Boston Center (ZBW)

On Aug. 9, 2022, an Aer Lingus Airbus A330 inbound to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) diverted to Bradley International Airport (BDL, in Windsor Locks, Conn.) due to bad weather at its initial destination. After waiting for the weather to clear at Boston, Aer Lingus, with the callsign of Shamrock 13J, was ready for takeoff from Bradley.

Charles “Chuck” J. Lumia, Jr., a veteran BDL ATCT controller, was in the tower that afternoon, working ground and local control combined. Shamrock 13J was parked in the Runway 6 de-ice pad while waiting for the weather to clear at Boston. When they were ready for departure, Shamrock requested to depart Runway 6, opposite the current flow of Runway 24. Chuck coordinated the opposite direction operation with Jeremy Wilson of Yankee TRACON (Y90, a consolidated TRACON, located at BDL) and cleared Shamrock for takeoff on Runway 6 with a right turn to a 190 heading after takeoff.

Just after Shamrock became airborne, a pilot of an aircraft on the ground alerted Chuck that there appeared to be an issue with Shamrock’s right engine. Chuck relayed this message to Shamrock who at the time did not see an indicated issue in the flight deck and were continuing turning and climbing to their assigned heading and altitude. Chuck then coordinated with Jeremy in the TRACON, letting him know Shamrock may be returning to the airport due to an issue with their right engine.

Once the Shamrock was established on their 190 heading, they declared “Pan-Pan” confirming they were indicating a compressor stall in their right engine and requested to return to Bradley. Chuck cleared them to land on Runway 6, but Shamrock requested a vector, so he assigned them a 240 heading.

Chuck, knowing Shamrock would be returning to the airport, coordinated with Jeremy, and requested he break out a United Airlines plane, that was the opposite direction arrival on approach for Runway 24. But Jeremy had already transferred their communications to Chuck. As soon as United checked in on tower frequency, Chuck cancelled their approach clearance and gave them a heading to turn them north of the airport.

Since Shamrock wanted vectors back to the airport, Chuck transferred communication with Shamrock to Jeremy in the TRACON. On their initial call to departure, Shamrock reported their compressor stall and their request for vectors for the ILS Runway 6. Jeremy assigned them an altitude of 3,000 ft. and continued their heading of 240.

As Jeremy worked the other traffic on his frequency and gave Shamrock vectors for the ILS Runway 6, he obtained the required emergency information from the pilots. With this information, Shamrock noted that they expected a normal landing, but would like fire services to be waiting for them once they landed. Moments later, Chuck called Jeremy to report that fire services were standing by. Once Shamrock was established on the localizer for ILS Runway 6, he transferred communication back to Chuck in the tower.

Shamrock checked back in with the tower and again reported they expected a normal landing but were requesting fire services be standing by. Chuck then coordinated with the Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting command for emergency vehicles to follow the Airbus down the runway after they landed. Shamrock 13J landed without incident, vacated Runway 6 at taxiway H, and the emergency equipment followed the aircraft to parking. 

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the New England Region Charles “Chuck” J. Lumia, Jr. and Jeremy R. Wilson!

– New England Regional Vice President Mick Devine

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

Listen below as Allan recounts the full story on an episode of The NATCA Podcast.

Northwest Mountain Region: Natalie Glore, Seattle ATCT (SEA), and Nichole Larsen, SEA

Written by Brittney Armbrust, Colorado Springs ATCT (COS)

The Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) environment, with its three runways and congested taxiway configuration, can be challenging even in normal situations. On Oct. 18, 2022, at about 6:30 a.m. PT, when it was still dark, an emergency unfolded there. Flight ASA281, declared an emergency due to an equipment issue, and was inbound to land on runway 16R (the outboard runway). This was not the usual procedure for emergencies at SEA, they are typically handled on the inboard runway (16L), which allows for swift staging of emergency personnel without having to cross active runways. However, the ASA281 flight had initially set up for 16R. After troubleshooting the issue while holding, the crew decided they wanted to land on the same runway to avoid reconfiguration.

Emergency vehicles, under the call sign BAT301, were dispatched from the fire station on the ramp area which is on the east side of the airport and required them to cross both 16L and 16C to stage appropriately for the emergency on 16R. This was the first incident commanded by a new battalion chief.

There was no dedicated emergency frequency at the time, so the fire crew called air traffic controller Natalie Glore (SEA ATCT) on ground control initially, and she had them call air traffic controller Nichole Larsen (SEA ATCT), so Nichole could instruct the vehicles to cross 16L at taxiway K, move onto 16C, then onto taxiway J and then T as their staging area. Nichole observed the vehicles clear of 16L, and she asked BAT301 to verify all equipment was off 16L. BAT301 advised all equipment was off 16L. Once clear of 16L the vehicles went the wrong direction on 16C. Nichole stated, “They went the wrong direction. You just adapt to what is going on. The aircraft was about to touch down, so we were just trying to get them out there.” BAT301 was then switched to the other local controller for control as the ASA aircraft was landing on 16R under their control. After Nichole had verified all personal were clear of runway 16L she issued traffic on inbound traffic (ABX804) and cleared ASA946 for takeoff.

Natalie, on ground control, noticed an errant paramedic vehicle moving towards runway 16L and alerted the local controller (Nichole). Nichole swiftly canceled the take-off clearance for ASA946 and landing clearance for ABX804. ASA946 exited 16L at E and taxied back to 16L on B. Nichole also observed the driver of the paramedic vehicle was clearly disoriented and knew they needed to get off the runway. She attempted to contact BAT301, but they were on the other local frequency.

Nichole advised ABX804, who is on final, to just continue, because the vehicle on the runway appeared to be exiting. She then told the fire vehicle on L to hold short of 16L on L. The fire vehicle keyed up but was garbled. Nichole told the fire vehicle on B to stop and then again to hold position. It was observed at this point that the vehicle was going back to the fire station. ABX804 was cleared to land on 16L. Nichole asked ASA946 if they need a minute or if they are good to depart, they advised they were good to depart.

The vigilant team effort of Natalie observing the vehicle on the taxiway headed towards the runway and Nichole then tracking their movement as they continued onto the runway the incursion was anticipated and was controlled very efficiently even before the ASDE could alert them to the runway incursion.

About their save, Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Alex Navarro III stated, “Thanks to Natalie and Nicole’s exemplary performance and dedication to their craft, catastrophe was avoided. This situation had a multitude of factors that could have curbed their keen eyes: an early morning traffic push, a shift change for ATC and first responders, and the already-in-progress emergency. Because of the repetition in training and incredibly high volume of active runway crossings that SEA needs to make routinely, scanning the movement area is critical and highly prioritized. These women worked in tandem and so quickly that they identified and resolved this issue before any automated equipment could.”

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the Northwest Mountain Region Natalie Glore and Nichole Larsen! 

– Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President Alex Navarro III 

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

PODCAST: Listen to a conversation with below.

Southern Region: Chip Flores, Fort Pierce ATCT (FPR), and Robert S. Morgan, Jr., Palm Beach International Airport ATCT (PBI)

Article by Amy Sayers, Fort Lauderdale ATCT (FLL) 

On May 10, 2022, Caravan N333LD reached out to air traffic control at Fort Pierce ATCT (FPR, in Fort Pierce, Fla. The person on the radio advised, “I’ve got a serious situation here. My pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane, but I’m maintaining 9,100 feet.” Just before this call, the pilot of N333LD expressed to his passengers that he wasn’t feeling right and had a headache. Shortly after, the pilot collapsed. While attempting to maneuver the incapacitated pilot, the plane’s autopilot had been disengaged, which sent the Cessna Caravan into a nosedive and a sharp turn.

The passenger-turned-pilot, Darren Harrison, was able to level off the aircraft and begin communications with ATC. FPR air traffic controller Chip Flores was the controller who took the call. Chip tried to determine the location of the aircraft, but Darren was not familiar with their position and could only advise that he had the coast ahead of them. Chip instructed N333LD to level off at 5,000 ft., while efforts began to determine the aircraft’s location.

Once N333LD was identified approximately 20 nautical miles east of Boca Raton Airport (BCT) over the Atlantic Ocean, Chip advised N333LD that a controller from Palm Beach International Airport ATCT (PBI) was going to take over the frequency and help him fly the aircraft. Back in Palm Beach, PBI air traffic controller and certified flight instructor Robert Morgan had been recalled from break and was on his way into the radar room. Robert was briefed on the situation. He sat down at the emergency radio and began transmitting to N333LD.

Robert calmly issued clear and concise instructions for N333LD to follow and slowly guided him towards FPR. However, due to runway length, congestion, and radio coverage, Robert determined that the safest option was to direct N333LD toward PBI.  Meanwhile, controllers at adjacent air traffic control facilities began to put aircraft into holding patterns and advised them to expect delays due to an emergency aircraft. Tower controllers at PBI dispatched emergency responders and started moving vehicles and aircraft away from the runway to prepare for N333LD to land.

Robert wanted to provide the best information for N333LD, so he asked for a printout of the flight controls of a Cessna Caravan as he walked Darren through how to make turns, how to select flap settings needed to create enough lift at slower speeds, and how to land.

Once N333LD was established on a straight in-flight path to the runway, Robert guided N333LD through a long, stable final approach. When the aircraft was over the runway, Robert explained to N333LD how to keep the nose barely off the ground until the main gear touched down. Darren successfully landed the plane. When he finally stopped the aircraft, he asked Robert how to turn off the engine. First responders approached the aircraft and assisted the incapacitated pilot and with the aircraft.

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the Southern Region Chip Flores and Robert S. Morgan, Jr!

– NSO Regional Vice President Jim Marinitti 

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this event:

PODCAST: Listen to a conversation with about this event.

Southwest Region: Les Carroll, Houston Hobby ATCT (HOU); Erik Johnson, HOU; and Jasmine Elizabeth Scott, Formerly at HOU, Now at Houston Intercontinental Tower (IAH)

Written by Shannon Lyman, Boston Center (ZBW) and Jaymi Steinberg, Washington Center (ZDC)

On the morning of March 5, 2023, air traffic controller Erik Johnson was working Local Control at Houston Hobby ATCT (HOU). At his side were air traffic controllers Jasmine Elizabeth Scott, who was working Ground Control, and Les Carroll, who was covering the Clearance Delivery and Controller-in-Charge positions. During this time, the departure push had finished, and the last arrival bank was inbound. The airport was utilizing one runway, Runway 4, for departures and the intersecting runway, Runway 13R, for departures, which is normal for this time of day.  

Southwest 2863 was cleared to land on Runway 4. In anticipation of the arriving aircraft, Erik cleared Envoy 3338 to “line up and wait” for departure on Runway 13R, the intersecting runway. He said, “I gave them instructions to line up on 13R and cited the inbound aircraft cleared to land Runway 4. This way they knew why they were just lining up.” At this junction, Erik was reviewing the STARS data to determine if Envoy will depart after the next arrival or go after the subsequent. 

As the Southwest flight approached a 1 mile final, the Envoy aircraft had reached the end of Runway 13R and immediately throttled up to begin their takeoff roll. Outside of the tower, Erik noticed Envoy not stopping as they should and also heard their engines throttling up, which drew his attention. He quickly noticed the events unfolding and reached out to stop Envoy 3338 before the aircraft reached the crossing point. It took more than one call. Due to this delay, and in order to further protect safety, Erik issued Southwest a go-around.  

Erik cites his experience and radar trainers from Buffalo Niagara International Airport ATCT (BUF) with his scanning abilities and his HOU trainers for pushing him to be professional and consistent. He recalls being pushed to work as if he were busy even during periods of low traffic, and his skill of pre-planning his next steps as a key component to his catching and resolving this situation. Jasmine says she was thankful for being able to maintain her composure under pressure – a skill instilled as far back as her time in the military.

 “If it wasn’t for the impeccable scan, the constant awareness, and quick response of Erik, thousands of families would have lost a loved one that night,” said Jasmine. “I was glad I was working with the group I have been working with.”

“Erik was the man on the whole deal,” Les recalled. As Controller-in-Charge during this event, Les was able to relieve Erik of the position post-event and took care of all the required paperwork.

Erik adds, “One important takeaway as a controller is that in air traffic control, we are working in partnership with the pilots to develop a relationship built on professionalism. Both sides can go out of their way to look out for each other.” 

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the Southwest Region Les Carroll, Erik Johnson, and Jasmine Elizabeth Scott!

– Nick Daniels, Southwest Regional Vice President 

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this event:

PODCAST: Listen to a conversation with about this event.

Western Pacific Region: Max Miggo, Oakland Center (ZOA) and Benjamin K. Yuen, ZOA

Article by Robert Reddeg, Southern California TRACON (SCT) 

“Oakland Center, Skyhawk N2031Y, student pilot, can’t see” is the first transmission air traffic controller Max Miggo at Oakland Center (ZOA) heard working Sector 42 with Benjamin K. Yuen training by his side on Feb. 4, 2023. It was very clear that the pilot was concerned, but with a calming voice, Max immediately worked to radar identify N2031Y and started thinking of a plan of action to assist this aviator based on the weather and location. While Max worked to identify N2031Y, the pilot advised Max he was a student pilot, who was only VFR qualified but had now encountered IMC conditions on his way to Lincoln Regional Airport (LHM) near Lincoln Ca. It was at this point that the entire team knew they were dealing with a possible emergency.

Without hesitation Max used other aircraft, other sectors and his training team, to work together to gather weather and come up with a plan of action to get N2031Y into clear skies based on their location. While the student pilot of N2031Y expressed he was “not comfortable” with his current situation, Max made it clear to him that he was there to help and kept reassuring the pilot he was doing “great.” 

While continuing to utilize other aviators in the area to solicit PIREP’s, Max helped keep the student pilot calm by encouraging him to keep his eyes on his instruments while following Max’s guidance to climb towards clear skies. Max worked to get N2031Y climbing to get above the layers while also remaining well above the terrain. As N2031Y climbed out of 6,300 ft., the next transmission was a relief for everyone, “31Y in some clear air here, thank goodness.”

Even though N2031Y had found some clear skies, Max and Benjamin knew there was still a lot of work to do to assist this student pilot to a safe landing. Max suggested that Oroville Municipal Airport (OVE) in Butte County, Ca., was possibly the closest and best option for N2031Y based on the weather situation.

Continuing to keep calm though out, Max worked with the pilot to find a hole in the clouds and encouraged the aviator to circle down. Due to the professionalism of Max, Benjamin, and other air traffic controllers, it was clear that the student pilot of N2031Y trusted them to get him safely down even while encountering additional IMC conditions during his descent. Continued assistance from Max and Benjamin and another aviator, N8PH, relaying guidance to the pilot of N2031Y along with some encouraging words from Max to just “get on the ground and wait for the weather to get better” allowed N2031Y to land safely. 

The final relayed transmission of “Oakland Center, 31Y is on the ground at Oroville” by N8PH were the relieving words everyone was hoping for. The exceptional professionalism and teamwork between Max, Benjamin, and others at Oakland Center and NORCAL TRACON and with fellow aviators allowed for the best outcome for the student pilot of N2031Y!

Congratulations to the Archie League Medal of Safety winners for the Western Pacific Region Max Miggo and Benjamin K. Yuen!

– Western Pacific Regional Vice President Joel Ortiz 

Watch the award presentation:

Highlights from this save:

PODCAST: Listen to a conversation with these NATCA members.

Honorable Mention

Alaskan Region
Daniel “Dan” Parks JNU    

Central Region                     
Alexander “Alex” Koufos SGF (Runner Up)
Sarah Grampp ZKC
Preston Lawrenz ZKC
Grant Rodebush ZKC
Latifa Totty ZKC   

Eastern Region                     
Louis Ferdinandi TEB (Runner Up)
Aubrey Farrar DCA           
Terry Halsey DCA
Angela Diolosa EWR         
Sara Fratticci FRG
Michael Jones EWR          
Joseph Tesoriero EWR      
Edward “Eddie” Finn FRG 
Alex Grandinetti FRG        
Anthony Caratozzolo JFK   
Erick Carlo JFK    
Erica Locke JFK   
Samuel Mironchuk JFK      
Joseph Morin JFK
Tim Danek MDT  
Lennart “Len” Amon PCT
David Beck PHL   
Kevin Dougherty PHL        
Edward Young ZDC          

Great Lakes Region
Stephen Rubin C90 (Runner Up)
Richard Gurney C90
John Ohmberger FWA      
Todd Hilton IND  
Jarrett Mckinney IND        
Bradford Houdlette ZAU
Austin Zack ZAU 
Jeffrey Smith ZOB

New England Region
Ryan McQuade A90 (Runner Up)
Matthew Hardiman A90     
Sarah O’Brien A90
Kati O’Leary A90 
Deni O’Leary A90
Kristin Garcia BOS
Patrick Sullivan BOS
David Westermayer BOS   
Steven Brown PWM          
Andrew Bryant PWM        
Justin Burrows PWM         
Melissa Garcia PWM         
Steven Schefcik PWM       
Axel Scheffler PWM (Now at S56)
Derek Weaver PWM

Northwest Mountain Region
Raymond “Tyler” Ellis ZLC (Runner Up)
Jayson Harris ZLC (Runner Up)
Reny Hicks DEN
Craig Harris SLC  
Matthew Houghton SLC    
Adam Humpal SLC           
Gavin Plummer SLC          
Jonah Devito ZDV
Jason Giles ZDV  
Alissa Guilkey ZDV
Christopher Moulton ZDV  
Teresa “TP” Pavljuk ZDV

Region X
Homer Benavides EGL (Runner Up)
Joseph Peterson ENM      

Southern Region
Daniel Beane LEX (Runner Up)
Joshua “Josh” Van Ostenbridge A80
Janusz Ruch A80 
Avery Bell AVL    
Ryan Chase AVL  
Clinton Harris AVL
Kimberly Sippel-Guglielmo AVL       
William Hinson CAE         
Gregory Mack CAE          
Justin Mendelson CAE
Felipe Vicini CAE 
Justin Dobso CVG
Zachary Huck CVG
Brian Rankin DAB 

Southwest Region   
Kyle Gibson ABQ (Runner Up)
Michael Coyne D10          
John “Mike” Peterson DFW
Jason Donovan MSY         
Joshua Sewell MSY
Antonio Quesada ROW     
Taylor Anderson ROW
Western Pacific Region       
Christopher Ebey ZOA (Runner Up)
David Thomas ZOA (Runner Up)
Luong An JRF
Keola Lanai JRF   
Dejon Lee LAS    
Gary Rumney LAS
Vanessa Smith LAS           
Yoonjae “Jay” Hyon NCT  
Heather Stone NCT          
Julian Olivares P50           
Kurtis Walliser SNA          
Richard Brown VNY          
Jonathan Eagle VNY         
Matthew Ford VNY

Photo Album

View our photo album from the awards banquet and CFS 2023

Video: The Complete Awards Banquet

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