LRod, Meet the Colonel

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The vast majority of controllers in 1968 had experience in the military, many of them veterans of WWII (one in Chicago, Warren Holtsberg, had been a B24 pilot and a POW). Some were retired military, and one in my area (Low East) had been a Colonel in the Marine Corps. If you can imagine a fierce looking guy six feet tall with a ramrod straight back, a brush cut, and stern demeanor (I believe that would be all Marine colonels) that was Bob Tabler. Nicest guy you would ever want to meet, but on when you came to play you had better have your A game with you. He had high expectations and he took no prisoners.

When I got out of “D” school and started training on the boards, I started at AGS Low. AGS was an interesting sector. It overlaid AGS approach control (which was a non-radar approach control), and which had 50 and below (5000 feet to the ground). Due to the alignment of the CHS radar the sector only had radar coverage above 10000 feet. Consequently everything below 10000 was separated by the D-Side, although the radar controller talked to the airplanes. Because of the lack of radar coverage at the lower altitudes it was among the last of the sectors, at least east of the Mississippi, in which the R and D controllers truly were a sector team insofar as actual separation of airplanes was concerned.

On probably my first day training, Bob was the radar man and Herschel Speers was my instructor. Bob had some things going on (it could be a testy sector with the radar/nonradar mix of traffic) and I had cleared two or three airplanes out of AGS (maybe one off of AIK or DNL). The procedure was that the tower would get them off the ground, the approach (departure) controller would work them, non-radar, get them on course, and then when clear of his traffic, would instruct the pilot to contact the center (us). The aircraft thus showed up on frequency, to this point not having been yet identified on radar (a normal IFR operation, nonetheless).

Either I didn’t know any better, or I was too intimidated to interrupt his activity, but I hadn’t alerted Bob to the impending contacts. After the third one showed up on the frequency, a frustrated Bob turned to me and said, “you’ve got to talk to me, boy.” It should come as no surprise to find it was a lesson I never forgot…obviously.

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Last updated: 20 January 2011