July 28, 2008 — Each year, EAA AirVenture brings in more than 8,000 airplanes of all kinds. Special air traffic procedures, not seen or used anywhere else, will be used to ensure safe and coordinated operations.
FAA air traffic staffers – controllers, supervisors, and managers – compete to work this popular event. This year, 172 air traffic professionals representing 56 facilities throughout the U.S. volunteered to staff the facilities in use during the event. Sixty-four controllers and 14 supervisors were ultimately selected, representing 50 facilities. For their work, these controllers will earn (and wear throughout the event) a coveted fluorescent pink polo shirt – the high-visibility mark of an FAA AirVenture air traffic controller.
Unlike the radar rooms throughout the country, the approach control facility is a trailer parked at the top of a hill in the tiny town of Fisk, and four bright pink-shirted controllers with binoculars monitor the air traffic from lawn chairs perched on the grass, sending instructions to pilots via a hand-held radio.
The controllers work their outdoor post rain or shine and in eight-hour shifts, as residents of the area bring their folding chairs to watch the parade of planes line up for landing.