Sherry Avery learned to fly, she
says, "when dinosaurs roamed the runways." On the runway was not
where Avery was meant to be... she was destined to rule from above,
and became an Air Traffic Controller. Currently, Avery is Los
Angeles Tower District Manager and oversees nine towers in the busy
LAX area. Avery is on call 24/7 and says, "keeping track of
everything is like herding cats." Avery has been with the FAA for
33 years, starting out as an Air Traffic Controller.
Avery spoke at the General Session on Friday at the Women in
Aviation Conference. As with the other speakers, the message
contained thoughts to help in the job search, and much of it is
about attitude. A good, friendly, helpful attitude.
Avery believes listening is an essential quality as a manager.
Professionalism in all employees is a must. "Part of
professionalism is being seen as reliable both in temperament and
attendance," Avery advises.
First impressions can be lasting, Avery advises dressing
properly for your interview. Even if it's a casual company, dress
tastefully. "Leave the low cut blouses and super short skirts
home," opines Avery. "Although that type of clothing will get you
noticed," Avery warns, "You may not be taken seriously."
At some point a conflict will arise at work. Avery advises
talking to the person in a non-confrontational way. This is
sometimes easier said than done. "Most people avoid doing this at
all costs, they say they don't want to aggravate the relationship,
which is interesting because it's already bad."
Learning your boss's job, not with the intent to undermine, but
to be there if needed, may make you seem promotable. Believing in
yourself is a must.
Later, Avery spoke with ANN. Avery feels strongly about the
shortage of aviation employees.
"We are short at a lot of facilities," Avery admits. "The FAA
has a huge recruitment effort underway to fill the gap." She vows
that, "We are always going to keep the skies safe, regardless of
how many people are working. What we would do is limit the amount
of airplanes in the sky at one time so it's always commensurate
with who you have to staff all your positions." While the airlines
might not be happy with this solution, Avery knows it's safety
One of the FAA initiatives currently underway to increase
controller numbers, are College Training Initiative (CTI) Schools.
Recruitment efforts are being increased. Avery advises to check for
enrollment opportunities on the FAA website. Some of the schools
have two year degrees in Aviation Science, some are a full four
years. One of the schools, located in Pennsylvania, has an actual
tower used for training. About 20 schools exist across the
WAI is helping Avery in her recruitment efforts. In just the
last couple of days at the conference, Avery has found some
prospective recruits for ATC. "I think this is an incredible
networking opportunity," Avery says. "It's great for every line of
the aviation business."
More can be done, believes Avery. "I think we need to start
recruiting at colleges that are not associated specifically with
Asked about advice that Avery would give to the new FAA
Administrator, she responds, "Keep focusing on the hiring effort. I
think it'll take a little while to get back where we feel we're at
the target staffing we'd like to be at."
Being a pilot, Avery realizes knowing both sides of the coin is
an asset. "I think it's important to have a pilots license to be a
controller." Avery says, "It gives you more empathy." About 25% of
her employees have their license. Avery hopes the 'Fly a
Controller' program is resurrected, allowing controllers to fly in
airline cockpits and allow for additional observation.
Having experienced both sides of the coin, Avery has some pet
peeves for each. As a controller, it was sometimes difficult when
foreign pilots came through her airspace. Learning to fly is hard
enough without having language as a barrier. "It creates too much
chance for misunderstanding." As a pilot however, Avery wanted,
"controllers to be patient with me."
LAX used to seem like some scary airspace, but with Sherry Avery
leading the way, maybe not as much...