|Miles and Evan in the control tower at Washington National Airport watching planes preparing to land.|
Although I hadn't flown out of DCA in over 10 years, it is still one of my favorite airports. It's situated on the Potomac River, the physical structure of the airport is beautiful (Lots of windows offering great views and natural light), it is accessible by the Metro (always a plus) and when flying in/out of DCA, the views of D.C. and the different monuments are spectacular.
The boys and I arrived at DCA on a Friday evening and we met up with our host. He had us check-in with security and then he took us up to the control tower; which was a combination of elevators and stairwells. When we reached the top of the stairs, we entered a spacious, glass enclosed area with great sightlines in all directions. What made a big impression on me when we reached the control tower were our host's colleagues, they were a young, incredibly diverse group in regards to ethnicity and gender (It was great to see a sizeable number of women ATC’s represented) and they were all extremely friendly. Our host introduced us to his colleagues, gave the boys and I a tour, patiently answered all of our questions, and showed us all the technology used to track planes. He showed us how to read the different radars and how to discern the airline of a plane and where it is headed. He explained to us when ATC’s are communicating with pilots what the lingo means, how to read runways, and then there was one particular piece of equipment that I will never forget. It was a radar screen with a map of the world that showed all of the planes in the world in airspace at that moment. It was impressive!
Annually, ATC is ranked as one of the most stressful jobs and I expected to see a highly stressed group of individuals operating at a break neck pace. The group the boys and I encountered were extremely friendly, helpful, kind, and very professional. When I asked the different ATCs how they came to choose this profession the replies varied. One young woman in her early 20’s who was new to the job said that she never knew what she wanted to do professionally. She had enrolled in one college, her mom suggested becoming an ATC and the idea intrigued her. So, she transferred colleges, began taking ATC courses and immediately loved what she was learning. Our host earned his pilot’s license as a teenager and gravitated toward the career. Only in his mid-thirties, he is a veteran among his colleagues at DCA with 15 yrs. experience. Another ATC said that growing up he and his family moved a lot due to his father’s job as a pilot. He became interested in air travel and as a result became an ATC. He then looked at Miles and Evan and said, “Who knows, maybe Miles and Evan will become ATCs one day.” Time will tell.
|Miles and Evan at Washington National Airport|