Around and Around We Go…
“Zulu, Kilo, Alpha, cleared touch and go runway Zero Seven,
Air Canada Three One Two, contract Detroit One-Three-Four Point Three, have a great trip!”
Voices echo through my head, actually through my headset. Through the years dating back to when I was a young teenager, I have come to have many of these folks, Air Traffic Controllers, impact my life with their words spoken. I have developed a HUGE respect for the ladies and gentlemen who are tasked with protecting the travelling public by managing air traffic flows under their watch.
Not all airspace is managed by Controllers, and I miss them when they are not there. They strive to do an almost impossible task, keeping independent flying tubes filled with people from mashing into one another.
The system they/we operate in demands a mutual respect, and at times forgiveness considering as humans we all make mistakes. I think that pilots probably make more mistakes and that is understandable considering the wide nature of proficiencies of the pilot populations. Brand new student pilots, to experienced airline types and everything in the middle. Not to mention the number in Canada of foreign pilots training here, with poor language skills at best. Controllers have to make the best of the situation trying not to let frustration and fear rule the airwaves.
Controllers are part of a team, which in Canada is called Nav Canada, and also includes Flight Service Specialist, although not controllers per se, are tasked with assisting pilots with flight planning weather briefings and the like. At the more remote locations they do provide traffic advisories and traffic co-ordination as well.
A controller is a controller is a controller right? Not exactly, and if you think about it, and remember from the movies like “airplane” there are radar controllers, and tower controllers.
But wait! There are more! There are controllers who work constructing and delivering ATC clearances to the pilots before flight.
And that’s not all! Then there are ground controllers who direct aircraft to and away from the active runways via the sometimes complex taxiway complex from hangars terminals and runways. And of course the Tower Mic controller who has the responsibility of clearing the aircraft for take-off and landing.
The radar controllers have local regional and large sectors of airspace to cover, high and low altitude sectors that all require different qualifications and checkouts. Similar to that of pilots with the different type qualifications.
My first experience with controllers started when I was just 16 years old, at the Windsor Airport (CYQG) as a student pilot going around and around the airport traffic pattern learning how to take-offs and landings. I was in awe of the folks in the Tower then, and not much has changed over the years as I appreciate much as ever their skills and abilities, maybe even more now having worked with them since my earliest days in aviation starting for me…. 1971, over 48 years ago.