NATCA Members Receive ATCA Awards
Friday, October 05, 2012
From left to right: NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, Brian Graham (ZJX), Bob Carr (ZLA), John Blakeney (ISM), Julio Henriques (ZNY) and NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert.
Every year, the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) recognizes those
in the air traffic control profession who in the previous year have
contributed to the worldwide air traffic control system in an exemplary
way. This year, NATCA members John Blakeney (Kissimmee Tower [ISM]),
Robert Carr (Los Angeles Center [ZLA]) and Brian Graham (Jacksonville
Center [ZJX]), were among those honored by ATCA for their
achievements. Blakeney, Carr and Graham were honored Monday, Oct. 1st at
ATCA’s Annual Awards Luncheon in National Harbor, Md.
John Blakeney, ISM
Blakeney received the Air Traffic Control Specialist of the Year
Award in recognition of his outstanding 15-year career at ISM. He is the
only remaining original controller at ISM since the tower opened in
1997 and is a NATCA charter member at the tower, one of the first that
the union organized in the Federal Contract Tower program.
March, Blakeney was honored by ISM tower operator Robinson Aviation
(RVA) as its Outstanding Controller of the Year for 2011. He was
selected from more than 500 controllers throughout the United States.
is a native of western Orange County, Fla., and has taken great pride
in ensuring the safety of the airport and surrounding airspace of his
home community. Traffic at ISM has grown from 58,000 operations in 1997
to more than two million in 2011, and Blakeney is part of a tower crew
that handles a diverse blend of traffic, including aircraft from a large
flight school and the Warbird Air Museum.
ISM is located just eight miles from Walt Disney World and 10 miles from the Orange County Convention Center.
Blakeney was very honored and emotional about receiving this award. He thanked his manager and RVA.
“RVA is a fabulous company to work for,” said Blakeney. “Thank you ATCA.”
Robert Carr, ZLA
Carr received the William A. Parenteau Memorial Award, presented to
“an individual for an outstanding achievement or contribution, which has
added to the quality, safety or efficiency of air traffic control.”
a NATCA member since 1990, won for his performance while serving as an
Airspace and Procedures Support Specialist at ZLA from Jan. 1, 2010
through June 30, 2011. During that time, Carr’s efforts and experience
were an integral component in the transformation of the Pacific Ocean
warning areas within ZLA’s airspace. Specifically, Carr was the point of
contact for all coordination during the redesign. Through his
direction, ZLA significantly contributed to the goal of more efficient
use of airspace.
The airspace, which significantly impacts the
arrivals and departures into Southern California, was redesigned in
several steps. Carr partnered with the military on behalf of ZLA,
instilling a sense of confidence and trust. He worked collaboratively
with them to redesign two contiguous pieces of airspace (W-532 and
W-289). The redesign significantly enhanced the ability of the airspace
users to efficiently schedule and utilize the airspace.
projected savings from this redesign are astounding. Conservatively, the
redesign for W-532 and W-289 demonstrate a total combined annual
savings of approximately $1.9 million. From 2011 through 2020, a total
combined annual savings is estimated at $20.4 million. And these numbers
don’t yet factor in fuel and time savings.
“I was really stunned when I was notified I won,” said Carr.
thanked the military representatives on the project for taking a leap
of faith and partnering with someone from the FAA and allowing them to
do something better for the airspace, as a result. He also thanked his
airspace procedures manager and all his colleagues that helped him along
Brian Graham, ZJX
Graham, a NATCA member since 2005, received the Andy Pitas Memorial
Award, 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.” Earlier
this year Graham saved the life of a pilot who was trapped in the
On Feb. 22, a 40-year veteran pilot, licensed to fly
only in visual flight rules conditions (VFR), began to ascend on a
routine flight from Ocala, Fla. to Lafayette, Ga., but eventually became
trapped in a cloud cover. Stuck in instrument flight rules conditions
(IFR), the pilot was nearing the Florida state line and had no idea
which way to turn the plane. He was desperate for guidance.
"Jacksonville Center…I’ve got myself into a situation here. I’m into
some clouds and I need to find my way out…I don’t know what to do."
controller communicating with him attempted to help, with no success.
At that point Graham, a highly skilled instructor pilot, volunteered to
assist. The pilot was completely disoriented as his plane lost its
artificial horizon, which was the pilot’s primary way of telling which
way the plane was turned. At one point the pilot panicked as he entered a
“spin,” losing 8,000 feet of altitude in a matter of moments. Graham
calmed the panicked pilot, talked him through the clouds and eventually
got him to VFR conditions. By the end of the ordeal, the pilot was
making jokes, and as he left the frequency on which he was communicating
with Graham, he said Graham saved his life.
Upon accepting his
award, Graham said his award was possible because of a larger team
effort. He congratulated the controller that was working the sector of
the distressed pilot before Graham stepped in to assist. He thanked the
radar associate who routed aircraft out of the sector the distressed
pilot was in, so Graham could focus on helping the pilot. He also gave
credit to the surrounding facilities that provided weather reporters,
and to his supervisor.
“I feel like a closer getting all the
credit for a team effort,” said Graham. “On behalf of not only myself
but the entire team, and for people who do things like this every day
without an award, thank you.”
Also of note was that Lockheed
Martin received the ATCA Industrial Award for its work, along with the
work of its 750 dedicated En Route Automation and Modernization (ERAM)
team members on the development and deployment of intricate software
that must support the most complex airspace configurations in the
National Airspace System. They have also worked to ready the system for
deployment to sites that must continue to control 24/7 operations. The
ERAM program has achieved Initial Operating Capability milestones at
seven Centers throughout the country. Lockheed and its teammates
constantly look for continuous process improvements and the Lockheed
team continues to collaborate with FAA, NATCA, PASS and the sites to
implement lessons-learned from earlier sites.
Director of En Route, Terminal and Oceanic Programs Fran Hill accepted
the award on behalf of the team. She specifically thanked NATCA for its
large part in helping with the program as well as New York Center
Facility Representative and NATCA Implementation Lead on ERAM Julio Henriques for his collaboration and