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AOPA member wins controller union's highest honor

AOPA member wins controller union's highest honor

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AOPA President Phil Boyer and Ken Hopf

Air traffic controllers - they are the voices on the other side of the radio, granting clearances, issuing vectors, and separating small GA aircraft from jumbo jets. They are also most often a pilot's best resource during an emergency.

AOPA President Phil Boyer attended the first-ever National Air Traffic Controllers Association awards banquet Monday evening honoring controllers' dedication to safety. Ken Hopf, controller for the Boston Tracon and AOPA member, won the union's highest honor, the President's Award, for successfully - and safely - talking down the daughter of a pilot who became incapacitated during flight. ( Listen to the audio from NATCA's Web site.)

"Hopf was able to make this remarkable flight save because of his experience as a pilot and a controller," Boyer said. "Controllers like Hopf help pilots get from destination to destination every day without incident."

In August 2004, Hopf received the radio call many controllers dread - a call for help from the daughter of the pilot who had become incapacitated. She had no experience flying a Piper Malibu but was able to maintain altitude and heading.

While Hopf was working with the daughter, another passenger - her mother - also became incapacitated. Hopf suspected carbon monoxide poisoning and instructed her to open a vent or window. He walked her through how to slow the high-performance complex aircraft, lower the landing gear, and land.

Hopf also received the Archie League Medal of Safety for the New England Region. (Archie League was the first air traffic controller in the United States.)

NATCA honored 11 other controllers who were involved in flight assists last year with the Archie League Medal of Safety award: Meaghan Howard, Alaskan Region; Mark Goldstein, Central Region; Scott Dittamo and Greg Horne, Eastern Region; Dan Hemenway, Great Lakes Region; Allan Blair and Brian Miller, Northwest Mountain Region; Cliff Murdock, Southern Region; Chris Owen, Southwest Region; and Al Hurst and Ron Chappell, Western Pacific Region. ( Read summaries of these controllers' saves.)

Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) received the first Sentinel of Safety award for his achievements in the advancement of aviation safety. Oberstar sponsored the FAA Revitalization Act of 1995.

NATCA is a federal sector labor union directly affiliated with the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations and represents more than 20,000 air traffic controllers, engineers, and other professionals.

May 20, 2005

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