I was puttering about in the hangar yesterday with NPR's All Things Considered playing on the radio when I heard a story about a controller in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who talked a student pilot through landing her Cessna 172. For his efforts, he's been awarded NATCA's Archie League Medal of Safety. That student got lucky - not all air traffic controllers are pilots; here at LAX I'd estimate that about half of our controllers have some sort of piloting experience. Most other places I've been the pilot count among the controllers was somewhat less, perhaps somewhere between ten and thirty percent, but I don't think I've ever been the only pilot assigned to an air traffic facility. She was also lucky in her choice of airplanes: the Cessna 172 is just about the universal general aviation airplane, with an admirable safety record. In case you've never seen one, here's one I caught on the run-up pad this afternoon:
The most incredible part of the story to me was that she later flew away again. Since there was no further mention, apparently that landing went okay. I guess you really do have to get right back on the horse.
Here's a link to the NPR story: Flight Controller Honored for Grace Under Pressure