What It’s Like to Work With Your Dad
Thursday, June 14, 2012

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to work with a parent? Wondered if it would be fun, or if they would drive you crazy? These NATCA members can tell you exactly what it’s like. They each work with their fathers and have graciously shared their experiences.

Scott and John Shelerud, Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP) Air Traffic Control Tower

NATCA members John Shelerud and his dad, Scott, have worked together at MSP for the past two and a half years. John is an air traffic controller and Scott is a Traffic Management Coordinator (TMC). When John arrived at MSP, he and his dad had similar schedules and ended up working very closely together.

“To be able to see the other side of who my dad is and be a part of that life is something most kids don't get to experience with their parents,” said John. “It is truly a unique experience and I am very happy I get to do so.”

For John, his dad was the reason he got into the air traffic control (ATC) profession. His first real ATC exposure was when he visited his dad at work for a few shifts. Scott encouraged John to get into ATC, but, initially, John was resistant to it. He attended college and after switching majors several times, he realized maybe his dad was right. John transferred to the University of Alaska to study ATC and loved it.

According to John, the only disadvantage of working with his dad is when the two of them talk about work around the rest of their family and no one understands what they are talking about.

“I’m sure I’ve seen some eye-rolling from them when Dad and I get talking,” said John. “But overall, it has been a very positive experience.”

Scott has been on temporary staff detail for the last year, so John hasn’t seen as much of his father. But Scott will be back in the tower next month and they are both looking forward to working closely again.

“One of my favorite memories was the night John was the Coordinator in Charge (CIC) and I was the Traffic Management Coordinator in Charge (TMCIC),” said Scott. “The two of us were running the cab.”

Tom and Katie Regan, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZBW)

Charter NATCA and ZBW member Tom Regan knows a thing or two about air traffic control. His daughter Katie, a NATCA and ZBW member since March 2010, knows a few things, too.

While Tom was always interested in the ATC profession and served in the Air Force before joining the FAA in 1984, Katie did not initially share that interest. She watched her dad work a few shifts at ZBW as a kid, but later decided to attend the University of New Hampshire for occupational therapy. After not getting into her program, she dropped out of school and worked a few different jobs. Her dad encouraged her to simply try out the ATC profession, so she did. A year after she applied, she was at the FAA ATC Academy in Oklahoma City and heading to work at ZBW.

“I never pictured myself in this career,” said Katie. “But now, as I am near the end of my training I don’t think I could see myself doing anything else. I think seeing my dad work while I was training inspired me because he is so confident and I look up to him more than anyone else.”

While Tom and Katie are currently on opposite crews and don’t see each other often in ZBW, their areas work together a lot so they know each other’s airspace and traffic flows.

The Regans enjoy working together immensely. The advantages for them are numerous, including their ability to bond and help each other because of their shared profession and facility.

“I like working with my dad,” said Katie. “He has so much faith in me. I couldn't ask for a better dad.”

“I’m very proud of her,” said Tom.

The disadvantage of working together?

“I’m pretty positive we annoy the heck out of the rest of our family that isn’t quite as interested in ATC as we are!”

Don and Tim Schneider, Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZHU)

Tim Schneider doesn’t work closely with his dad, Don, yet.

Tim has only been at ZHU for three months and spends his time in the training department while his dad is in the control room. But Tim is training for a specialty that happens to be the same as his dad’s so it’s only a matter of time before they will work in close proximity.

For as long as he can remember, Tim has been interested in the ATC profession because of his dad’s passion for the job. Tim recalled how he would visit his dad, a 25-year ZHU veteran and 18-year NATCA member, who always said that he loved his job and couldn’t think of anything else he would rather do.

One day, when Tim was hanging out in his dorm room at college, he got a call from his dad telling him if he wanted to be an air traffic controller, he should apply soon because the FAA’s hiring pool was tightening up. Tim applied that day. Two years later, he was hired at ZHU and went to the FAA Air Traffic Control Academy in Oklahoma City.

So far, Don and Tim enjoy working together. The advantages for Tim are that his dad can answer any questions he has about ZHU airspace and the ATC profession and Tim is getting to know a lot of people at the facility through his dad.

Don said that since Tim is just starting his career he should be certified in three years, when Don retires.

“He will be my replacement,” said Don. “I have worked in a very good area and hopefully Tim will learn to love this job as much as I have.”

Tim couldn’t be more pleased that he will work the airspace that his father does.

“I think it’s very cool that I get the opportunity to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” said Tim.

Jeffery Paynter, Philadelphia (PHL) Air Traffic Control Tower and Jeffery Paynter Jr., Buffalo (BUF) Air Traffic Control Tower

Jeffery Paynter Jr. has yet to find a disadvantage about working in the same profession as his father.

“He gives me advice all the time as to where I should be in my career,” said Paynter Jr. “He's also very knowledgeable. He's been doing this much longer than I have and with this job you can't put a price on experience.”

Paynter Jr. learned about ATC through his father. He said that seeing the perks and advantages of the profession sparked his interest, so he pursued ATC training through the Navy. After serving, he pursued other ambitions. He attended Rowan University on a partial basketball scholarship, but quickly learned that that path did not suit his interests.

The Paynters have yet to work at the same facility, but Paynter Jr. isn’t sure how it would affect their relationship.

“I think it could be a really cool experience,” he said. “I know he would be there to answer any questions, but it could be challenging given the father/son relationship.”