Yesterday I crossed the proverbial railroad tracks to see how the other half lives. I stepped out of my fancy flight deck and took a tour of Memphis TRACON and tower during Delta Airline’s five o’clock arrivals. What I saw gave me a greater appreciation of the delicate dance of the national air traffic control system.
Not knowing what to expect in terms of security, I showed up extra early – and in uniform. The security guard was very courteous and we were clear of the checkpoint in a matter of minutes. Sean, our tour guide, showed up and led us down a hallway to a dark room straight out of a sci-fi movie.
Memphis TRACON had the feeling of a sports bar on game day. In the corner were big-screen monitors that everybody could glance at to get the big picture: weather radar, a string of airplanes along each arrival corridor, and a nifty one dimensional view to convey aircraft spacing as clearly as possible.
Then there were the rows of controllers casually seated before their respective scopes. These guys made it look easy. In a single breath one controller held a conversation with me, gave a descent clearance to one airplane, and made an inside joke to another controller. Everything looked so effortless.
What an easy job! At least that was my thought until Sean began to give us the play-by-play. As it turns out, there’s an awful lot to keep track of when you are responsible for sequencing an endless line of airplanes converging into one runway. Even after flying in this environment for a few years, my mind was already approaching overload. Continue reading →
Pages: 1 2Tags: air traffic control, Tower, TRACON