In a week when aviation has taken a bit of a black eye, Tulsa's air traffic controllers made national history for their safe handling of flights. The Federal Aviation Administration says it's the people who make Tulsa better. The News on Six visited with the men and women who safely bring thousands of planes in and out of Tulsa's airports each year.
Tulsa controller Don Polsen is on the safest team in the air traffic system. "My parents are on a plane occasionally or people you know. So, we all try to pay attention and do the best job we can, " he said. The FAA recognized controllers at Tulsa International Airport for six years of flawless service. During that time, the airport had three million takeoffs and landings, safely by the book. "Yesterday morning, this facility achieved that three million level. And the record continues. I fully expect that we'll be back in a couple of years when they reach four million," said Doug Murphy, FAA Regional Director.
FAA directors also applaud Jones Riverside controllers for 2.6 million operations without an error. An operational error doesn't necessarily mean that someone's life was in danger. It's just something that didn't go by the book. For example, if you drove from here to Dallas: you stopped where you were supposed to; yielded when you should have; obeyed the speed limit. If you forgot to use your turn signal just once, that would be counted as an error.
Airport passengers think the news is great. "I have to fly through here every month or two so their boys can see their dad. I'm flying through here quite a lot so it's nice to know that it's safe," said Deanna Garde, passenger.
This isn't Chicago or Los Angeles, but Tulsa airports do have their busy times. And Oklahoma's changing weather can throw many curveballs. "We have normal airways set up that people fly on. When weather becomes a factor, we have to deviate around those cells. Everything has to change and you have to be willing to react and move planes around to different locations," said Polsen.
Tulsa controllers continue bringing in one plane at a time and topping the record with each operation.