Atlanta Center Adopts 600 Delta Pilots
Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Tuesday, July 12, Atlanta Center (ZTL) implemented its "Adopt-A-Pilot" educational program for Delta instructor pilots. Over the next several months, Delta has committed to sending instructor pilots in groups of eight for a full day of monitoring the operation, running simulation scenarios, and reviewing hearback/readback errors. Delta has told us to expect 600 visitors over this selected period of time.

The pilots of this program are greeted promptly at 8 a.m., taken to a conference room, and given a presentation. The presentation is put on by the ZTL Training Department and consists of basic ATC concepts, ZTL sectorization and equipment, and a video of a typical inbound arrival scenario. The pilots are then paired up with a NATCA volunteer CPC and head to the control room floor. The host CPC works traffic and the adopted pilot sits close behind, seeing the operation up close and personal. Throughout the day, groups of pilots are taken downstairs to the radar simulation lab and given the opportunity to try ATC for themselves, which is typically the highlight of the pilots’ day. 

This initiative was developed in collaboration with facility management and the NATCA ZTL Safety Council. The project, which took over a year of planning, was presented to Delta Airlines in April 2010 by NATCA ZTL Safety Rep Dan McCabe, Facility Manager Terry Biggio and ZTL FLM Jerry Rutherford. After the group agreed that the program was worth pursuing, the project was turned over to the ZTL Training Department where NATCA member and Staff Specialist Bill Rabek, with help from members of the NATCA Safety Council, brought the final product to fruition.

NATCA has received some great feedback regarding this program. Below we have featured some of the comments the union has received from a variety of participants:

     “Just a note to tell you that the visit to the ATL ATCC in Hampton was well worthwhile! After talking to Atlanta Center controllers for 31 years on the radio it was nice to see the faces, talk to them in person, and watch them do what they do so well.

    “The program was outstanding! The folks we met yesterday impressed me with their professionalism and dedication to their work. We really should have done this a long time ago.

    “More importantly, I learned several things about operating in the ATC environment that I didn't know before.”

    “The training people at Hampton are enthusiastic about our participation and have created a program that gives the pilot a realistic view of the ATC controller's workload, working conditions and professional requirements.”

    “In addition to "over the shoulder" time watching ATL arrival and departures, we get an opportunity to try our hand at controlling traffic in their training simulators. For me, the highlight of the visit.”

    “Throughout the day there is an emphasis on effective communication and proper phraseology; something we can take home to our program.”


In addition, NATCA is excited to have received a commitment from Delta to allow our current radar developmentals and new CPCs to participate in Delta pilot simulation training as jump-seat observers.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in making this great educational program a success!

Below are pictures taken during the pilot-controller training at ZTL, courtesy of Atlanta ARTCC Support Manager for Training Rick Garceau:


Above: NATCA member Chip Jones helps a Delta pilot trying to sequence numerous arrivals during the simulation session.

Above: Member Chip Jones instructs a Delta pilot while FacRep Rick Baugh observes.


Above: Member Jay Tilles assists a Delta pilot who is trying to sequence numerous arrivals in our simulator.