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Thread: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

  1. #1
    Senior Member AirtrafficController's Avatar
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    An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Ever since I have lived under or near the approach paths of LGA in Queens, I have always looked up when an aircraft departing or on approach was caught by my sight or hearing. I remember always being excited when my father would drive me to JFK to pick up relatives or drop them off. JFK Airport has and continues to be a magical place for me ever since my father took me to Howard Beach on a summer evening years ago and witnessing an Alitalia 747 depart from 31L. Since my freshman year at high school, I’ve had always aspired to become an air traffic controller. I became fascinated with the career by doing research, asking questions, and learning from several great websites such as this one. As I will start my freshman year at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology this September, I look toward a bright future and career.

    I was able to get a tour of JFK Tower through one of the professors at Vaughn who worked many years at Kennedy Tower but now works at Westchester County Airport. After some waiting and patience, I was able to work out a date to tour the tower. The controller who would graciously be my tour guide was Tom who has been working at JFK tower for 13 years and previously worked several years at New York Center in Ronkonkoma, NY. I became really excited the morning I woke up on Monday just waiting for the work day to end. I rushed from work home to drive to the nearest Dunkin Donuts to buy a dozen for the controllers. Afterwards, a quick drive down Woodhaven Blvd. and in no time I was in the Terminal 4 Parking garage. I took a few photos before I went into the terminal:



    I met Tom near the chapels in the setting sun. After signing in and walking through a few security doors, we were on the elevator heading to the top. After we exited the elevator, Tom showed me the controller’s lounge which had a comfy leather couch, some controllers on break, and tasty snacks. Everyone was very friendly and happy especially to see me holding a box of doughnuts. :borat: Tom showed me a few other rooms until he headed up the stairs to a gorgeous view. :borat: . Tom just finished eating his dinner so he introduced me to a few of the controllers which 4 of them working were Vaughn graduates! 8) He also introduced me to the tower supervisor who made it all possible. All of the guys and gals were happy to see me and I felt very welcomed. Well me and Tom immediately dived into “pushing tin” from then. Tom got a briefing from the ground controller who was about to take a break about what runway configuration is currently being used, aircraft taxing, and possible problems. Tom plugged himself in with his headset and reached for a “telephone” headset for me to plug into and listen. This is when the magic started to happen.

    Tom did a outstanding job of handling ground control which is the hardest position in the tower. I really tried my best to follow what he did by looking at the ground radar screen and 360 around to see the actual aircraft taxing to depart 22R at the Charlie intersection or 31L at the Kilo-Kilo intersection. He also handled aircraft that just landed on 22L and gave instructions for the easy ones as taxing into a gate that was available to positioning a few Delta flights near the General Aviation Terminal to sit there and wait for a gate. Tom really did show he worked here for 13 years. He really did memorize every taxiway and gate at the airport. He also had to communicate and coordinate with the two tower controllers and clearance delivery/flight data. Flight strips were being passed/stacked around all over. Soon our shift at ground control ended and we relieved a nice gal controller to take over Local (tower) control by landing aircraft on 22L.

    Tom again received a short briefing of the situation and then we plugged in again. Local control looked less hectic then ground control for sure. Tom again did an outstanding job of clearing aircraft to land, instructing them on what taxiways to enter after exiting the runway, ordering them to hold short, and communicating with ground and the other tower controller all at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking. Visibility has pretty good for the night and the winds were light from the west/southwest. Every controller had a funny/great personality attached to them from one veteran controller operating as tower instructing Tom to let aircraft cross the runway after the “Spaniard” (Iberia A346) departs to let the “Frenchman” (Air France 773) cross taxiway Juliet strait onto Alpha and monitor ground. One controller was singing tunes out loud and others cracked jokes. The situation did grow serious however as an American Eagle E-135 operating as EagleFlight# 4756 announced to tower that it had a medical emergency. Immediately the controllers worked as one team to handle the situation. The pilots on the flight gave information to Tom about the condition of the passenger (female, bleeding profusely from the nose at the back of the aircraft). Tom relayed this information to the tower supervisor which he called for an ambulance to wait at the gate to treat the passenger. Departures on 22R were halted as the Embraer quickly taxied on Juliet, crossed the runway and strait into the ramp. Hopefully the passenger was OK. As the evening winded down, traffic began to reduce but would start to pick up later. Before Tom’s work day ended at 10, I was able to take some not perfect but memorable photographs I will always treasure of the tower:











    I thanked the supervisor again, and wished the controllers good night and enjoy the doughnuts as me and Tom headed down the stairs to the elevator. I thanked Tom for the wonderful opportunity and memorable experience in my young aviation life. As I walked across the bridge back into Terminal 4, I look back how far I have come since watching loud MD-80s fly over my house and looking up to now photographing them and touring a tower. I’m quite eager to start college since I have a passion for aviation and especially air traffic control. I have started teaching myself the basics of it and will continue further until I start taking ATC classes in my junior or senior year. Until then, I plan to see Tom every Tuesday morning after he finishes teaching his ATC class at Vaughn starting in September. Hopefully one day in the future, I will be able to plug in and say the magic works: “American # heavy, cleared for takeoff runway 31L, wind is 290 @ 8”.



    http://www.liveatc.net/search/?icao=kjfk
    Aspires to become an Air Traffic Controller at Kennedy Tower.
    http://web01.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=31094

  2. #2
    Moderator mirrodie's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Hey! Thanks for taking the time to share! Nice pics! And best of luck in school fulfilling your goal!
    And I, I took the path less traveled by
    and that has made all the difference......yet...
    I have a feeling a handle of people are going to be very interested in what I post in the near future.

    http://www.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=187

  3. #3
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Luke great write up! Def one of the best reports I've read.

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    Administrator PhilDernerJr's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Nice coverage and sounds like you had a GREAT time. Very happy for you Luke!! :)
    Email me anytime at [email protected].

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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Glad you got the tour & thanks for the pics :borat:

    A few years ago I was able to spend the entire day at DCA observing ATC procedures including setting with the approach & Dept controllers. Folks it was great but something I could never do. My hat is off to them.
    Train as if your life depends on it. Because some day it may.
    Opinions expressed are my own & not those of my employer.

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    Senior Member MarkLawrence's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    What an awesme experience Luke! Great pictures and an incredible report!
    Mark Lawrence - KFLL
    Davie, FL

    Community Manager NYCAviation.com
    email: [email protected]

    http://www.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=1538
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    Senior Member Big Tim #70's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Great write up! Thank you for sharing it and good luck in the fall!
    EVERYONE IS THERE TO SEE THE SHERPA!

  8. #8
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Glad you could capitalize on a golden opportunity Luke. Good luck to you in your studies, and one day we will be hearing your voice over the airwaves.

  9. #9
    Senior Member AirtrafficController's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Thank you for all kind comments and warm wishes!
    Aspires to become an Air Traffic Controller at Kennedy Tower.
    http://web01.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=31094

  10. #10
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Luke, great and very well written account of what appears to be a super positve experiance for you. I thought the box of donuts was a nice touch, and the laid back atmosphere you descibed it so important for those dealing with such a stressful job. Your plan of attending Vaughn sounds like a great plan on the ladder of making your dreams come true. I have a good friend, who is a Vaughn grad who is currently training to be a controller in Miami Center.

    Best of luck Luke

    LGA777

  11. #11
    Moderator Matt Molnar's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Now in blog form!

    :arrow: A Rare Look Inside JFK Airport’s Control Tower

    Thanks again, Luke!
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem.
    All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control.
    I trust you are not in too much distress. —Captain Eric Moody, British Airways Flight 9

  12. #12
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Heh, not bad...my work is sorta famous...

    I replaced that Freddie screen in the 5th picture...

    Glad you enjoyed it...

  13. #13
    Senior Member moose135's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Great report Luke! Glad you had this opportunity!

  14. #14
    Senior Member AirtrafficController's Avatar
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    Thanks Guys!
    Aspires to become an Air Traffic Controller at Kennedy Tower.
    http://web01.jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?userid=31094

  15. #15
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    Re: An unforgettable night: A tour of JFK Tower 8/3/2009

    ..would love to go up there someday.. :)
    JETTING IS WAY MORE THAN JUST FREE PEANUTS! JETTING IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE!

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