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Air Traffic Controllers Honored for Skill in the Tower

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Air Traffic Controllers Honored for Skill in the Tower

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Air Traffic Controllers Honored for Skill in the Tower

Air Traffic Controllers Honored for Skill in the Tower

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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

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Charlie Mayer, NPR

Controllers in Action

Hear incidents involving some of the controllers being honored with the safety prize.

Scott Dittamo interacts with an airliner that was about to land in Newark with its landing gear up, July 24, 2004.

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Dan Hemenway helps a pilot losing control of her small plane within 100 feet of the ground near Madison, Wis., Dec. 30, 2004.

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Ken Hopf helps the daughter of an incapacitated pilot land their Piper Malibu at Laconia Airport in New Hampshire, Aug. 9, 2004.

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Al Hurst averts a potential collision of two planes over Southern California, July 9, 2004.

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Audio courtesy National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

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.