Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Chicago Center Handles Last EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

For those of us who transited Chicago Center's airspace between July 20 and 29, there wasn't a hint that an era was ending. But according to the FAA employees' on-line newsletter, this year's fly-in was the last for which Chicago Center will handle arrivals and departures of the IFR bent. Here's the article, sent courtesy of an FAA staffer:

End of An Era: Chicago Center Provides Final Service for Oshkosh

Updated: 11:05 am ET August 1, 2007

August 1 - "Chicago Center employees do a remarkable job with Oshkosh, and we have a good story to tell," said Bill Cound, the center's air traffic manager.

But the era of providing approach control services for the huge Oshkosh air show has drawn to a close for Chicago Center. Next year, approach control services will be provided by Milwaukee Tower and Tracon.

The unique air traffic control procedures for pilots immediately arriving and departing Oshkosh receive plenty of well-deserved attention.

However, the important contributions made by Chicago Center controllers to keep airplanes moving safely to and from the airfield are frequently overlooked.

"We've provided air traffic control services for this annual event since 1969, when EAA [Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture] moved to Oshkosh," said Frank Karkula, an operations manager at the facility. "As Oshkosh evolved through the 1970's and 80's, our services also grew."

Chicago Center Front Line Manager Rita Thiel has participated in the Oshkosh air show since 1989. Over the years, she has witnessed the growth and popularity of the show, billed as the world's greatest aviation celebration.

"Every year the Chicago North Area Team braced up for one heck of a week," said Thiel. "Usually four controllers working with split frequencies because of sheer volume. One controller would work departures and one would work arrivals. They would pass their breaks for sometimes five hours because it was simply to busy to give a briefing. I am so proud to have worked with such energetic, ingenious controllers, who really just got in there, pulled up there sleeves, dug themselves out, and always, always got the job done."

The controllers at Chicago Center do a remarkable job under demanding circumstances, said John Etherington, front line manager. "There are challenges inherent with the workload volume that occurs during this event," said Etherington. "While it can seem overwhelming to a casual observer, our professional controllers keep a very disciplined control over the aircraft at all times. It's a fun time for people to work showing a very high level of professionalism."

For the North Area Team in Chicago Center, it will be the last air show they provide approach control services in the Oshkosh area, as Milwaukee prepares to take the airspace beginning Feb. 14, 2008.

"It is truly the end of an era," said Thiel. "I applaud everyone who was a part of it. I am sure they have plenty of stories to tell their grandchildren. "

(Article appeared on the MYFAA Employee Website)

So next year, be sure and give an EAA "Howdy!" to the folks at Milwaukee -- if they've got the time to hear you, that is.


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