Its About The People

Most of my air traffic career was spent working at airports. From one tower or another; I could watch military flight crews striding across the ramp toward their warplanes, briefcase toting road warriors lined up to board commuter flights or even the occasional flight instructor and student boarding a Piper Warrior. There was a bond of trust between us all that would exist until they left my jurisdiction and would renew when they returned. The importance of this bond was somehow underscored by having actually seen my aviation partners. It was akin to the handshake that seals a deal.

Having the opportunity to see airplanes each day; along with pilots, mechanics, tug drivers, maintenance workers and all others who are moving parts in the great airport machine, gave deeper meaning to my role in it all. By far, the most influential parts of an airport are the passengers, those who come to greet them and those who come to say goodbye. Our profession is big but it all narrows down to one fine point. That point is the people. They were always the lens that brought everything I did into focus.

At Big Time, the tower and TRACON were close enough that we controllers could walk through the terminal building during our meal breaks. It was a veritable collage of society, sounds and emotions. Many of our societal elements were there; from the large group of screaming kids off on a school trip to the small covey of nuns staring quietly at a changing list of arrivals and gate assignments. Laughter drowned out by the public address system or farewell hugs interrupted by final boarding calls ~ it was all there. And outside the terminal building's tall windows was a web of taxiways leading to runways that pointed to the rest of the world. To me, it all represented the core value in what I did for a living.

To this day, Big Time Airport remains a megalopolis of ramps, runways, terminals and taxiways. Yet somewhere out there; beyond all the Federal Aviation Regulations, Air Traffic Control Procedures, Letters of Agreement, computer systems, communications networks and emerging technologies you can still find the basics ~ like a windsock swaying in the breeze or a rotating beacon scanning the night skies. On Saturday afternoons you may find a group of plane spotters parked along the airport's perimeter road. Inside the terminal buildings, people still wait for friends and relatives to arrive. Others scramble to find a window where they can watch a loved one's flight take off.

As evolving and sophisticated as the aviation system is these days, it remains unchanged in many ways and surprisingly simple. As it was from the very beginning, flight is a personal experience. You can verify this by visiting any airport and watching the people.

© NLA Factor, 2010

No comments: