Here we are on the 13th, and this is the first entry of the month. While it's not a Friday, that 13th thing seems to be in full force. And in my world, it is Friday - well sort of, since I've got a day off tomorrow, albeit after a six-day work week.
Since the investigation is still underway, I can't make any definitive statements, but I've got a bad feeling that I got to be 'Controller B' this afternoon - possibly more than once. How's that for a start to a one-day weekend?
In short, I was working the north-side Assist position for a Local controller who may have launched a B737 too close behind a B767 off the south side. I know this has got all your wake turbulence alarms going off, but in this particular situation that's not a factor, because the two aircraft were on parallel courses that would eventually diverge. In this case, all we needed is standard separation between the two. However, it seems that we might not have even had that; thus the on-going investigation. The kicker is that by the time the TRACON supervisor called the tower supervisor to report the situation, the controller involved had already left for the day. Even better, he's due back tonight for the mid-shift. Which he wouldn't normally be working (assuming that he still can) except that he's covering for someone else who's out sick.
I hadn't realized that today was the 13th until I started doing the paperwork for this event, but in retrospect it seemed fitting; the whole day was a series of weird events. I worked one of the Local control positions at the beginning of my shift, and it seemed like there was an abnormal amount of missed transmissions and pilots seemingly just not paying any attention. Subsequently I worked Assist for someone else working that same Local, and he encountered the same issues that I had. The trend continued when we had to coordinate with a neighboring tower - they were slow to pick up the line, or didn't at all, and then what had been coordinated wasn't what actually happened. All of these things happened a number of times - enough that some of us started to comment on it. And this on the day when the news media is carrying the initial results of the NTSB investigation on February's crash of the Colgan Air Dash 8 in Buffalo, New York.
Is there such a thing as bad tower karma? It certainly feels like it sometimes. There seems to be a vague correlation to these sorts of things happening in conjunction with the full moon, but that was last week. Thankfully - what would happen when the full moon and the 13th coincide? Would they cancel each other out, or is there a multiplying effect? What if it was also Friday the 13th? Cue the spooky music . . .
Anyway, already on overtime, I had to stay late to listen to the tapes and fill out a statement - never a happy time in a controller's career, trust me! While I was down in the administrative part of the building, I noticed a board in the training office which had a list of all our current trainees. I counted nineteen. Yikes! Another board showed that we've got another half-dozen due in before the end of the year. Holy cow! Where are we going to put them all? More to the point, how are we going to get them all trained? We've only got 37 journeyman controllers, two of whom are on the disabled list, and not all of the rest are instructors. And considering what went on today, perhaps they shouldn't be. On the bright side, once they're all done, or even a good percentage of them, we'll hopefully see an end to the overtime meat grinder. Dare I dream of getting time off?
In case all of that doesn't have you scheduling a pity party for me, there's more: When I finally got to leave for the day, I found the truck wouldn't start. I had forseen this possibility though, and had spare batteries in the back of the Rover. Nothing like changing your batteries in the airport parking garage! After that was done, I discovered that the truck was out of fuel. Odd, since I was pretty sure that I'd filled it up before putting it in the garage. Odder still that the jerry cans in the back were still full. So once again, disaster averted. Except now, reeking of diesel, I realize that I've neglected to pick up a parking pass from the guard . . . back at the tower. And by now, rush hour (which runs from about 2 pm to 7 pm in LA) is in full swing. What a day!