by ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
How about a little secret under the
tree this holiday season? And, I don’t mean
Victoria’s Secret. It’s Bob Richards
Released in July of this year Secrets from the Tower is Richards
inside look at Air Traffic Control from one of the busiest control
towers; Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Richards opens
his story with a near death experience he had a couple of years
back and you’re hooked.
The aviation field was not where Richards saw himself when he
was younger but spending ones childhood years living and playing
under the approach path of O’Hare Airport can subconsciously
have a profound affect on ones future plans. Chapters two through
five were written by Richards when he was in eighth grade. Richards
said “I had the idea to write a book as far back as I could
remember.” Into adulthood, his focus changed and he wanted to
write the book for his children, to satisfy their curiosity.
The early chapters naturally focus on Richards growing up; family,
school, young love, partying “and just having fun by being
incredibly stupid,” Richards writes (and sounds like the
normal course of growing up).
Richards worked ATC from 1982 to 2007. He started at
O’Hare in 1985. The years he worked were time enough to
document the close ties with TRACON and the pilots at the beginning
of his career. Over the course of the book the reader is lead into
the fall of trust among the FAA, TRACON and tower personnel. Lots
of finger pointing and bad management emerge from the story. Even
Marion Blakey is not exempt from some finger pointing by
To relieve the daily stresses, practical jokes and teasing are
the norm. When moving hundreds of aircraft during the course of a
day stress relief is a necessity. One chapter is devoted to the
friends/co-workers he lost at very young ages from heart attacks
and cancer. Richards wonders why studies have not been done on the
ATC career and stress and the illnesses that seem to accompany it.
is very likely another story. Richards leads an eventful life in
the tower and away from his job. His encounters and adventures and
even problems make for interesting reading. He talks about meeting
then President Clinton. He presents issues such as the foreign
carriers trouble understanding the rapid fire speak that is a must
Richards talks about his ATC stint at Oshkosh Air Venture,
“the all star game for Air Traffic Controllers” he
writes. “One of my best times as an Air Traffic
Controller,” Richards said in an interview. He made the
All-Star team five years.
Richards also pulls no punches when he talks about losing his
edge, sinking more into pills and alcohol which leads full circle
to the hospital trip and near death experience.
The book includes Richards' 'Save the Airlines' Top Ten list.
Richards has seen and experienced the problems from the inside and
he offers suggestions on helping the airlines cut costs by
improving the ATC system. One topic conspicuously absent from the
book was the clandestine, illegal destruction of Meigs Field by
Mayor Daley. You can’t be ATC and not know about it or have
talked about it. Richards take on Daley’s act would have been
More pages devoted to his time at Air Traffic School would have
also been a nice touch. Anyone reading the book with thoughts of
going into ATC, more on the Oklahoma City life might have been
Any aviation fan can enjoy Richards humorous and sometimes
serious tales. Since he carefully explains any aviation lingo for
the layman, those outside of aviation are likely to find the book
enjoyable as well. There is a chance, however, they won’t
believe some of the things that happened.