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NATCA created the Sentinel of Safety Award as a way to honor aviation leaders outside NATCA who have displayed outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety. The award is presented annually at NATCA's Communicating for Safety conference and was renamed the James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award in honor of the tireless advocate for aviation, air traffic control, and NATCA during his tenure in Congress and as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In March 2017, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert presented the award to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

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NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert honor FAA Administrator Michael Huerta with the James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award.


Rinaldi explained that under Huerta’s term as Administrator, the relationship between NATCA and the FAA has come far. Rinaldi said that we have built a culture of collaboration that has enabled us to make progress on NextGen, strengthen the workforce at the local and regional levels as well as at FAA headquarters, and ultimately enhance the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS).

Administrator Huerta is the first Administrator to come to the Archie League Medal of Safety awards banquet, and he has attended every year he has been Deputy Administrator, Acting Administrator, or Administrator. Rinaldi said this embodies Huerta’s commitment to the work that aviation safety professionals do each and every day.

“I can’t really say that I can take credit for the amazing things that we’ve accomplished because we have done so much together,” said Huerta. “Our ability to go so many years with this incredible safety record is due to the work of all of you.”

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The honor of the James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award was a surprise to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.


Huerta said that on any given day, thousands of people are getting on airplanes and they are thinking about a lot of things — whether the bag is going make it, what the TSA line is like, will that kid ever shut up — but if you think about it, they’re not worrying about whether it’s safe.

“It’s gotten to the point where the public doesn’t even think about it — but we know that we have to be vigilant each and every day to ensure the system we love so much is the safest it can possibly be,” Huerta said. “Thank you for all that you do and thank you for this. It means a great deal to me.”

Watch the presentation.