The Beetons: Three Generations of Air Traffic Controllers
Friday, July 20, 2012
Frank Beeton IV and his sister, Cori Beeton.
If you’re a member of the Beeton family, you are either an air traffic controller or your life is intertwined with the profession.
Roswell Tower (ROW) Facility Representative Frank E. Beeton IV is a third generation air traffic controller. His grandfather, Frank Beeton Jr., was an air traffic controller for 40 years. Beeton IV’s father, Frank Beeton III, worked at Washington Center (ZDC) and was involved in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike of 1981. And Frank’s sister, Cori, currently works at ZDC.
Air traffic control runs deep in the blood of the Beeton family and it all started with Beeton IV’s grandfather, Frank Jr. He was a Navy Officer Fighter Pilot and during World War II, got lost in the Aleutian Islands in bad weather. He found his way back to base thanks to an air traffic controller’s directions. That prompted Beeton Jr.’s interest in the profession. After serving in the Navy, Beeton Jr. started at a temporary job with the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) in 1948. A year later he was at Albuquerque Tower (ABQ), where he worked until 1953 when he moved on to ZDC. He was at ZDC for about six months, when he transferred to Washington National Tower (DCA). There, he finished his career and retired in the mid-eighties as assistant chief of DCA.
Beeton IV’s father, Beeton III was hired by the FAA to work at ZDC in 1977. Four years later he was fired, during the PATCO strike of 1981. He was rehired in 1994 and immediately joined NATCA, remaining a member until he retired in 2010.
Beeton IV’s sister, Cori, was an air traffic controller in the Navy for six years before being hired by the FAA in June 2007 and joining NATCA. She certified at ZDC in 2010 and in January of this year took on the Reloaded Committee Representative position.
Beeton IV’s mother is not an air traffic controller, but of course, her life has been greatly affected by the profession.
“My sister has a picture of her being pushed by my mom in a baby stroller outside the facility she works at right now (ZDC), wearing a strike shirt,” said Beeton IV. “I still have the old strike shirt.”
As the 31st anniversary of the PATCO strike approaches, the Beeton family is a reminder of how greatly the strike affected the personal and professional lives of all those involved.
Beeton IV recently finished reading “Collision Course,” a book by Joseph McCartin about the background and aftermath of the PATCO strike, and plans to talk to his dad more about his involvement in the strike. Beeton IV gathers from their past conversations that his dad was very involved in the PATCO strike, even though Beeton III’s father (Beeton Jr.) was a FAA manager and strongly advised against his son’s involvement in anything related to the strike.
“Our family was greatly affected by the strike,” said Beeton IV.
Because Beeton III got involved and fired because of the strike, against Beeton Jr.’s advice, the two didn’t speak for nearly five years. The only exception during that period was when Beeton IV was born.
Beeton IV, certified at ROW in May 2010, joined NATCA and was elected facility representative in November 2011. An “off the street hire,” Beeton IV’s dad told him it would be a good profession and opportunity, so the youngest Beeton applied to every facility that had an opening, about 150. While the Beeton family resides in the Washington metropolitan area, Beeton IV didn’t want to risk his profession by being picky, so he accepted the first position he was offered, at ROW. He figured he could get his foot in the door and eventually transfer back to the East Coast.
In the meantime, Beeton is blazing a leadership trail at ROW, creating and implementing a lot of new ideas to promote the Roswell community’s awareness about air traffic control and NATCA.
“I’m just trying to get some positive feedback from the local community about our union; they probably don't even know we’re here,” said Beeton IV. “I want to drum up local support and let people understand that we are air traffic controllers, we have a union and we are proud of our community and proud of our jobs, and we just want people to understand what we do.”