Air Traffic Controllers Honored for Skill in the Tower

Controllers Ken Hopf and Scott Dittamo

Ken Hopf, left, and Scott Dittamo are among a dozen air traffic controllers being honored by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association for making "saves" in the line of duty. Charlie Mayer, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Charlie Mayer, NPR

When things go wrong in an airplane cockpit, a few words from an air traffic controller can save the day.

On a clear day last July, Scott Dittamo was training at the Newark Tower when he spotted an Air India flight with 409 passengers on board making its final approach. But something didn't look right. The Boeing 747's landing gear was still up as the plane was a half-mile from landing.

"Air India 145 heavy, check gear down, gear appears up," Dittamo radioed the plane. Colleagues quickly congratulated him on the "great catch."

Michele Norris talks to Dittamo and Ken Hopf, who are among the 12 controllers being honored today for helping prevent tragedies in the nation's skies.

They will receive the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's Archie League Medal of Safety for extraordinary vigilance and skill on the job. The medal is named for the man who is widely believed to be the world's first air traffic controller.

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