Tue, Jul 26, 2005
Shift Change At the World's Busiest Control Tower
The control tower at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
becomes the World's Busiest Control Tower for the duration of
AirVenture, every year. Chicago O'Hare and Atlanta have nothing on
this field for operations. The FAA surges into town with a small
army of controllers -- selected from a pool of volunteers.
A taxiway is pressed into service as a parallel runway and
aircraft are landed closer together than normal -- pilots are
expected to hit a given landing spot.
To an observer who doesn't know how the FAA prepares for
AirVenture, it looks mad, chaotic, maybe even unsafe. Numerous
extra special measures are taken to make sure things are safe; many
of you have seen the special NOTAM the FAA publishes with
AirVenture arrival procedures (interesting reading even if you're
not going there).
The controllers manage, with considerable sang-froid, to keep
any of the aircraft from making contact and reverting to kit form
in the air above the field. And in their off time, they can enjoy
You can recognize the controllers around the show grounds by
their shocking pink shirts. So if you see one wandering around, you
might want to thank him or her for their efforts on behalf of
safety -- here and at home.
But if you see a whole bunch of them all together, heading for
the tower, it's better not to delay them: it's shift change.
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