I know this is not the major news story of the day. But it is what I find now jamming my email inbox, on reconnecting from the frontier of China, so I will note it for the record.
I have always liked, admired, relied on, gotten along with, and been a supporter of air traffic controllers. In the recent passenger-pilot landing mentioned here and here, I first noted that "the calm of all involved is incredible" and then, in a second installment, that the controller involved "was faultlessly calm, supportive, and reassuring, and for that he deserves great praise." I also quoted emails from two pilots about what they noticed in the exchange, including info that they as pilots would have expected to get.
I have received a very large number of responses from controllers who were anything but faultlessly calm. The majority of them take the quoted remarks as an outright slam on the controller, which was not at all the intent. One recurrent theme was: Well, asshole, I'd like to see how you'd have done under pressure! As I've made clear each time, I could hardly imagine handling things as well as the man who landed the plane, Douglas White. As for the controller: I respect people who do this job, and his calm played a very important part in this happy outcome. During probably the worst experience I've had aloft, which involved a thunderstorm over upstate New York a decade ago, the controllers from the Fort Drum site were an enormous practical and psychological help. As I called their supervisor to say, with gratitude, after I landed.
Fortunately one extensive email did arrive from a senior controller who is in print the way I assume him to be in the control room: calm, systematic, etc. His name is Paul Cox, of the FAA Follies site. He is based in Seattle and stresses that while he is speaking as a controller he most definitely not speaking for the FAA. This is the approach I've always respected from controllers. (You other guys, read and learn!) His comments below. Let me say, again, everyone involved performed very well -- in the controller's case, through the combo of projecting an air of perfect cool and finding a King Air pilot to ask questions of. In addition, the pilot performed almost miraculously. Over now to Paul Cox, who says:
Read your recent blog entries about the incident in Florida, and a few of the comments you published deserve some info. [Very long dispatch after the jump, but full of interesting details.]