NATCA was well represented last week at one of the largest and most prestigious aviation conferences of the year – the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Aviation Summit in Hartford, Conn.
“Each year we do this, it gets so much better,” said Kelly Richardson, NATCA’s newly-appointed manager of outreach and special events. “I remember the first couple of times we exhibited at this show, we didn't have much booth traffic. Pilots have always been very hesitant and probably a little intimidated to talk with air traffic controllers. So, we had to figure out ways we could reach out to them.”
Richardson said AOPA has been a great partner to build a relationship between NATCA and the flying public. “As each year has passed, NATCA's presence has grown tremendously. We had so many pilots stop by our booth – it kept everyone busy the entire time. Pilots aren't as afraid to speak to controllers as they once were.”
Besides GA pilots, the NATCA booth drew attention from several significant visitors, including FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, NTSB Vice Chairman Chris Hart and NTSB Board Member Earl Weener. Bruce Landsberg of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation brought the two NTSB board members over to the booth and they ended up staying for about 20 minutes – even watching a little bit of one of NATCA’s presentations.
Richardson said another area where NATCA has increased its presence at this event is through forums and presentations. “We did nine total presentations between the large forums (between 100-300 participants) and in the AOPA Learning Pavilion which was located across from the NATCA booth (between 75-150 participants),” he said. “These presentations ranged from Q&A's with local controllers, to navigating the NAS and avoiding severe weather.”
The following members volunteered their time at the event:
Leanne Martin (AZO)
Steve McKenzie (Safety Committee – ZID)
Andy Marosvari (Safety Committee – BOI)
Danny Aguerre (Safety Committee – ZMA)
Ron Shusterman – A90
Other local members (NNE Region) who stopped by were Chris Blodgett (MHT), Jeff Martin (BDL), Scott Colella (N90), Brian Dubois (BOS), John Covino (BOS) and Derek Morrison (BOS).
Said Covino: “I was really impressed with the production NATCA put on and I was proud to be a part of that pilot / controller Q&A session. The local pilot community embraced the hour-long event and many stayed ‘after the bell’ to get in a more personal one-on-one discussion with local controllers from the area. Boston, Cape TRACON, Manchester and Bradley controllers did a commendable job fielding a broad range of questions, ranging from unpredictable flight plan routings to ‘controller pet peeves’ throughout New England.”
During one afternoon session, the panel was asked: "What's the best technique to go about obtaining a city or sightseeing tour over Downtown Boston?" Covino’s response was detailed, clever and also humorous: "Be confident on the frequency. Prior to entering Class Bravo airspace, call the Skyways controller about 10 miles west of Logan, in the vicinity of the Weston Tolls (local landmark) at around 1,500 feet. Advise you have the current ATIS and give a brief description of your requested route of flight. But most importantly, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If the Red Sox are playing at Fenway Park, chances are the controller won't approve a city tour due to the expanded three-mile TFR. Then again, if the Sox keep playing like they are, neither of us will need to worry about that after next week." The crowd enjoyed a good laugh.
NATCA even found itself part of a special awards presentation during the event. The Air Safety Institute (ASI), in collaboration with NATCA, now provides a way for air traffic controllers to answer pilots’ questions directly. Through ASI’s Ask ATC product, pilots have the opportunity to send questions via email to the Air Safety Institute, which poses those questions to controllers, and posts the responses on the ASI website in video format.
During the event, the Air Safety Institute’s Bob Knill and NATCA’s AnnMarie Taggio (CLT) were awarded the AOPA Live Pilot’s Choice Award for Ask ATC: Flight Following. The video had received over 10,500 views in just four months, making it one of AOPA’s most popular videos. The award is pictured below, with AOPA’s Paul Deres holding it in front of NATCA’s exhibit booth.
To view the award-winning video, please click here: http://www.aopa.org/asf/askatc/
According to Deres, the Ask ATC program represents a growing relationship between NATCA and ASI as both groups share the common goal of reducing the general aviation accident rate and saving lives. Through this program, pilots have the opportunity to ask for clarification on a procedure, or preferred operational action, or address any other uncertainties. Similarly, controllers gain the opportunity to determine what issues within the NAS may confuse pilots. Additionally, the Ask ATC program offers a way to bridge the divide between pilots and controllers, and allows for better understanding between the two groups. And ASI believes better understanding will lead to safer skies for everyone.