Unsung Air Traffic Control Save
Friday, February 10, 2012
Pictured left to right: Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis, Steve McGreevy, Guy Lieser, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi
Before the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, great saves came and went day in and day out, remaining largely unrecognized within the aviation industry and the public itself. Just another soul saved by another dedicated air traffic controller. But last week at the Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis shared one of those untold incidents he witnessed by Chicago Center air traffic controller Guy Lieser, a 2012 Archie League Winner with controller Steve McGreevy.
On New Year’s Eve in 1997, Pilot Kevin Uliassi was attempting to become the first pilot to fly solo around the world in a balloon, however Uliassi was unsuccessful when his balloon deflated and began spiraling out of control in the middle of the night. With absolutely no idea where he was headed into the pitch-black darkness, the pilot contacted air traffic controllers at Chicago Center.
At the time, Zilonis recalls hearing the pilot radio in to air traffic controller Steve Sorenson, as Zilonis was doing the only thing he knew how to do at the time managing the paper strips containing all the pilots’ flight information. Lieser calmly walked over after hearing the incident and took quick action in helping this pilot find a safe landing.
“What felt like hours, could have been minutes,” said Zilonis. “But Guy unfolded those VFR charts, sat next to the controller working the sector and helped identify all the obstructions such as towers and power lines that the balloon would encounter. He was able to land him safely in the middle of a cornfield in Indiana.”
Zilonis mentions that incident will always have an impact in his life.
“They figured out how to get a falling balloon into a field for a safe landing,” said Zilonis as he was presenting Lieser and McGreevy’s Archie League Medal of Safety Award. “To be here now presenting, these awards after working a career with gentlemen like that is very humbling to me.”
After a combined 60 years of air traffic controlling, McGreevy and Lieser were finally recognized for an exceptional save this past year. It’s not every day air traffic controllers win an award for a good job, but it’s every day air traffic controllers do an outstanding job at a profession that is so important to the aviation community.
To view the recording of RVP Bryan Zilonis' speech, click HERE.
If you have an untold air traffic control save you’d like to share with the NATCA family, please contact Hillary Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org.