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.
On Oct. 2, 2014, at the Minneapolis Convention, NATCA proudly renamed the award to honor Congressman Jim Oberstar, who was a tireless advocate for aviation, air traffic control, and NATCA during his tenure in Congress and as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Congressman Oberstar died on May 3, 2014, just a few weeks before NATCA in Washington, the event he supported and attended for many years, and at which in 2005 he was awarded the first Sentinel of Safety Award.
Congressman Oberstar didn't just talk about unions or work with unions. He WAS union. He once famously told a gathering of NATCA members that the National Airspace System and aviation safety was “in your hands. Good hands. Great hands. Great minds. Great people. NATCA people.”
NATCA welcomed the late Congressman's wife, Jean, to Minneapolis at the 2014 Convention to honor his commitment to safety and to NATCA. She is pictured at right with (left to right) NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, former Executive Vice President Dr. Ruth Stilwell, former President John Carr, and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert.