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June '13

Air Traffic Control 

Greg Vincent

Greg explained 3 horrific accidents that lead to significant advances in Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The first was the Grand Canyon Disaster in June 1956.   A United Airlines (UAL) DC 7 & a Trans World Airlines (TWA) Super Constellation collided in mid-air over the Grand Canyon.  Once they had cleared the

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 Los Angeles airport they were responsible for avoiding other air craft.  Factors that led to the collision were: limited cockpit visibility, some intervening cloud, preoccupation with normal cockpit duties, physiological limits to human vision insufficient enroute ATC, and preoccupation with unrelated cockpit duties i.e. providing passengers with better view of Grand Canyon.  The result was the creation of the Federal Aviation Authority; increased government funding; and 900 VOR’s and 82 advanced radar stations.

The second accident occurred in December 1960 when a UAL DC8 & TWA Super Constellation inbound to New York airports collided. Factors that led to this collision included the UAL flight was off course, the UAL speed was too high, and there was insufficient direct ATC.  This resulted in increased direct control and controllers added to TRACON; the FAA decreased air craft speed in high density areas; and the FAA developed “multiple lane” airways.

The third incident was at Tenerife in March 1977 with the collision Pan Am B747 & KLM B747 on the runway. Because of a bombing at Gran Canary

airport, many flights were diverted to Tenerife creating very crowded ramp space and aircraft were parked on taxiways. Dense fog meant the tower unable to see aircraft, runways and taxiways.  Causes of this disaster included sudden fog (the tower and aircraft were unable to see each other; taxiways were blocked; pilots unfamiliar with airport layout; and simultaneous radio transmission meant important transmissions were missed. This resulted in an emphasis on proper RT and ground mapping radar was installed at Tenerife

 In the past RCAF provided a source of trained aircrew to become Air Traffic Controllers. Currently some applicants have pilot training but everything must be trained in a classroom and simulator.

Air Traffic Control is very difficult to train if the person is over 30.

 Greg showed us a very interesting website where you are able to see, in real-time all flights over a specific geographic area.

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