2011 ATCA Awards Ceremony
Thursday, October 06, 2011

On Monday, Oct. 3 several NATCA members were honored during the Air Traffic Control Association’s (ATCA) Annual Awards Luncheon as part of the 56th ATCA Annual Conference and Exposition in National Harbor, Md.

NATCA congratulates Denver Center controller Charlie Rohrer and Burlington Tower facility representative Charles LaBombard on winning the Andy Pitas Memorial Award, and Atlanta Center controller Derek Bittman on being named ATCA Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year Award – En Route.


Derek Bittman

NATCA also congratulates former Phoenix TRACON President Steve Hadley, Phoenix TRACON’s current President Mark Wojtulski and Phoenix TRACON controllers Bob Little, Chris Smith, James Hansmann and Eric Hanson, as well as ZAB's Mike Meredith, Dave Bricker, Kevin Wright and Lisa Cyr of the PHX Optimal Profile Descent (OPD) Design and Implementation Team, on winning the David J. Hurley Memorial Award.

The Andy Pitas Memorial Award is presented to an individual or group who provided flight assistance that resulted in the safe recovery of an emergency aircraft through the application of exceptional air traffic service. The Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year Award is presented to an individual civilian air traffic control specialist who performed in an exemplary or extraordinary manner in support of air traffic control. The David J. Hurley Memorial Award is presented to an individual working in the field of Aviation Traffic Management for outstanding achievement or contribution in the area of air traffic control collaborative decision making, balancing air traffic demand and capacity, or maximizing airspace and airport use, which has added to the quality, efficiency and/or safety of the Global Airspace Systems.

As you may recall, the heroic actions of Rohrer and LaBombard earned them their respective regions’ titles at the 2011 Archie League Medal of Safety Awards; Bittman took home NATCA’s President’s Award in addition to earning the Southern Region title.

Rohrer saved the life of a pilot and his wife by instructing the pilot’s wife to an emergency landing route after the pilot became incapacitated from lack of oxygen during the plane’s ascent

LaBombard applied older procedures he had not practiced in years to help a distressed and disoriented pilot who was unable to make the runway approach, was low on fuel and had reversed course into the path of another aircraft on final approach.

Chuck LaBombard

Bittman saved the life of a pilot by providing a safe path to the Rome, Ga., runway despite the plane’s malfunctioning navigation equipment, low ceilings and fog, low fuel, and two missed approaches.

Of winning the award, LaBombard said, “I’m honored to receive this award … Air traffic control is the ultimate team. We strive for perfection every time we plug in to position … I’m humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as Andy Pitas, he was a visionary and a great leader.”

Rohrer said, “I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized by ATCA and the aviation industry. I want to thank everyone, pilots and controllers, who assisted myself and the two people on the aircraft in distress. I am proud to be part of a profession that strives for professionalism and teamwork and I wish to acknowledge all those folks that make my job so rewarding.”

Bittman said, “We do great things every day and don’t always get recognized, so it’s good to be recognized for something you do. I’m happy to be nominated, happy to win.

The PHX OPD Design and Implementation Team created a project to develop descent profiles on arrivals into Sky Harbor that add quality, efficiency and safety to the airspace system while significantly reducing expenses for airlines. The team worked closely in conjunction with US Airways, Southwest Airlines and Albuquerque Center to make the project a success.

PHX OPD Design and Implementation Team (Mike Meredith, ZAB, fourth from left and Mark Wojtulski, P50, fifth from left.)

Wojtulski said that winning the award shows just how productive and beneficial a collaboration between NATCA and the FAA can be. “Because the agency worked with NATCA, we were able to work with the users and develop arrivals into Phoenix that not only save the airlines millions of dollars, but also reduce emissions and noise. Having front line controllers express their concerns to the airlines and the airlines express their concerns to the controllers, we were able to work out a ‘give and take’ that was mutually beneficial to everyone,” he said.

Former NATCA President Pat Forrey received ATCA’s Special Recognition Award. Forrey, who served as chair of this year’s ATCA Annual Conference Committee, was honored for his commitment to constant improvement of the annual conference, including conceptualizing, coordinating, and developing the panels for the event while offering fresh and relevant ideas through the process.