How Does That Work? FAA Air Traffic Control at EAA Airventure Oshkosh

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

FAA air traffic controllers say working the EAA AirVenture is the “Super Bowl” of air traffic control.  The convention brings in thousands of airplanes of all types in a fast environment that makes Oshkosh one of the busiest air traffic control towers in the world. 

For their work, these controllers will not earn a Super Bowl ring.  Instead, they wear a coveted fluorescent pink polo shirt – which is necessary on the runways and is the high-visibility mark of an FAA AirVenture air traffic controller.

The FAA has staffed a tower at the EAA convention since the 1960s. FAA Air Traffic staff, including controllers, supervisors and managers, annually apply to work this event from the FAA’s 17-state Central Terminal Service Area and from its Eastern Service Area.

This year, 65 controllers, 18 supervisors, and three operations managers have been selected, representing multiple FAA air traffic facilities.

The controllers are divided into 16 teams of four persons each:

  • One Veteran controller serves as the team leader and a second Veteran may also be part of the team. Each of these controllers will have three or more years of previous EAA AirVenture experience.
  • At least one member of the team will have one to two years of EAA AirVenture experience. This group is identified as the Limited category.
  • The final member of each team will be new to AirVenture duty and is identified as a Rookie.

It is important to note that even an “Oshkosh rookie” has many years of training and experience and is a Certified Professional Controller (CPC) in his or her home facility. 

These teams stay together throughout the convention as they rotate through the Oshkosh control tower, the Fond du Lac tower, at FISK VFR Approach Control and at the mobile departure platforms known as MOOCOWs (Mobile Operating and Communications Workstations).

Larger Network

Throughout the Midwest, there are many other FAA air traffic controllers and maintenance technicians who take on additional workload and responsibility to ensure flights to and from AirVenture are as safe and efficient as possible.

For example, controllers at the FAA’s Milwaukee TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) will work all IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) traffic arriving and departing the area.  These controllers may seem far removed from the action, but they’ll be just as involved as the controllers on the Oshkosh air field.

FAA’s AirVenture Goals

The FAA’s participation in the weeklong event goes beyond air traffic.  It focuses on three key goals:

  • Ensure efficient air traffic operations during the event.
  • Improve the safety culture of the General Aviation community.
  • Reach out to the public regarding important aviation safety topics.

For the FAA, AirVenture is the “Super Bowl” of air traffic control, but it’s also the “Super Bowl” of General Aviation safety.