Controllers assisted in weather, engine-outs, more

Flight Assist Commendation Awards honor controllers

March 27, 2014

The pilot of a Cessna 172 encountered severe turbulence and heavy precipitation over North Carolina, and reported he was having a hard time maintaining control.

“I’m losing altitude, and gaining altitude,” he told the controller, who gave him vectors to the ILS approach at nearby Hickory Regional Airport. But conditions at Hickory were deteriorating, and visibility had dropped to three-quarters of a mile in heavy rain. Atlanta Center controller Daniel Egecrone then gave him vectors to Statesville Regional Airport instead, but the turbulence was so bad that the pilot had difficulty locating, and then reading, the approach chart for the ILS to Runway 28.

Egecrone guided the pilot until he could see the runway for a visual approach, and on March 26 he and 22 other controllers were honored for assisting pilots in 2013 with the Air Safety Institute’s Flight Assist Commendation Awards. The Air Safety Institute is a division of the nonprofit AOPA Foundation, and AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg presented the awards during the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s Communicating for Safety Archie League awards banquet ceremony.

“The exceptional actions taken by each of these 23 controllers in 2013 meant that pilots were able to manage a crisis to a safe outcome,” Landsberg said. “These controllers talked pilots down out of bad weather and through equipment difficulties and, in several instances, away from flight paths that would have led to mid-air collisions. The work of this group exemplifies the skill and high standards that air traffic controllers exhibit each day.”

In the Alaska region, Chris Benson and Carrie Jordan were honored for assisting the pilot of a Cessna 310 that was picking up ice. The two controllers cleared the pilot to a lower altitude, provided a new routing, and gave information for an instrument approach to St. Mary’s Airport.

Winners in the Eastern region helped a pilot with engine trouble and helped avert two potential collisions. Mike Ransom helped the pilot of a Beechcraft Bonanza BE-36 that was experiencing engine trouble by providing vectors to a nearby airport and runway information, and by correcting an incorrect readback of instructions. Thomas Prestia provided traffic warnings to an Atlantic Air 3 Aero Medical Helicopter that had a near-collision after taking off from Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey, according to a news release. And Antonio Franklin alerted another pilot to a potential traffic conflict by transmitting in the blind on a nearby unicom frequency when one pilot experienced radio failure while under IFR.

When a Chautauqua Airlines Embraer ERJ-145 experienced a total electrical failure, Gary Malinko helped keep the airplane away from nearby mountainous terrain. He won an award for the New England region, along with Tina Regan, Gregg Nuendorf, Steve Soares, Tahlia Jordan, Matt Weiers, John Moomey, and Andrew Martinez, who offered assistance to the pilot of a Piper Aerostar who had trouble with an approach in low visibility and strong winds after an autopilot failure. These controllers provided vectors to another airport with better reported conditions.

Egecrone was among the winners in the Southern Region, which also included teams that helped vector one pilot around dangerous weather and coordinated emergency assistance for another who had an engine-out. Reggie Johnson, Brian Bidwell, Chris Coughlin, and Brian Paysinger gave vectors around convective weather to a Cessna 172 that was having electrical and navigation issues. When the pilot of a Piper PA-28 experienced engine failure over a Florida bay, Sarah Reed, Michael Mulligan, Keith Newkirk, Renar Saldivar, and Danny Garcia-Barbon coordinated radio-relayed communication and emergency assistance from the Coast Guard and National Park Service.

Sarah Deener

Sarah Deener | Editor – Web, AOPA

AOPA Editor – Web Sarah Deener has worked for AOPA since 2009 and has been a private pilot since 2011.