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Controllers from Northwest Mountain Region Arrive in Utah, Prepare for Unique Olympic Assignment - (1/29/2002)

SALT LAKE CITY – A team of 12 air traffic controllers representing seven states in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest has arrived in Utah and is preparing for work in two temporary control facilities which will be used to handle the expected heavy amount of air traffic in February because of the Olympic Winter Games.

The temporary towers are located in Provo, Utah, and at a municipal airport near Salt Lake City. One of the portable trailers was used at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after last year’s earthquake severely damaged the control tower. Controllers reported on Monday and settled into the area. They are training at the Salt Lake Terminal Radar Approach Control facility and will have one day of familiarization in the temporary towers before starting work this weekend. They return home Feb. 26.

“Every controller who volunteered is highly qualified, which made it very difficult to narrow the field to 12,” said Carol Branaman, National Air Traffic Controllers Association Northwest Mountain Regional Vice President. “All of those chosen have extensive experience in working with general aviation. But most of all, they are special people who have a unique ability to handle any situation with composure, consummate professionalism and a sense of humor. These are the folks you want around when the fur starts to fly!”

Only one controller from each of the 24 towers in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Northwest Mountain Region was nominated for the Olympic assignment. Each had to be Limited Aviation Weather Reporting Station (LAWRS) certified. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Seattle Center Controller Jim Ullmann, who has helped lead NATCA’s Olympic plans. “These people are willing to leave their families for a month to work. They won’t receive any glory other than to say they did it. Controllers as a whole love new experiences and this certainly qualifies.”

Mindful of how Sept. 11 has injected a much more serious tone into the Olympic air traffic control responsibilities, FAA officials asked each controller if they still wanted the job. The response, Ullmann said, was unanimous. “All 12 said ‘No, we won’t back out, we still want to do it,’” Ullmann stated.

The controllers are Steve Boyer (Eugene, Ore.), Terry Cole (Hillsboro, Ore.), Tim Davis (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Daryl Dellarossa (Pueblo, Colo.), Lisa Eidson (Seattle-Tacoma), Tim Forestor (Great Falls, Mont.), Gary Frazier (Casper, Wyo.), Van Haddux (Twin Falls, Idaho), Sam Horney (Grant County Tower, Moses Lake, Wash.), Breck Smith (Paine Tower, Everett, Wash.), Mark Smith (Boise, Idaho), and Norfina Velasquez (Centennial Airport, Colo.).

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