Boat Safety

It Can’t Be Stolen From A Locked Building

Here’s one in which I had no possible involvement, directly or indirectly. I was told this story recently by a former ZNY controller, with whom I regularly have lunch. It ranks right up there with other pranks I’ve chronicled, proving that the gene for prankishness was clearly resident in the controller genome, not just at ZJX or ZAU.

A little background first—in all the post 1960s ARTCC buildings, there was a catwalk or bridge above the control room, which connected the second floor of the Administration Wing (usually facing the street) and the second floor of the other wing. I’m not sure what name would be applied to that second wing. There were a lot of offices in them. The Training Department was usually there and I had an office when I was a staff specialist in the QA (Quality Assurance) office in that wing. There were also a lot of Automation offices, and I believe, some AF (Airways Facilities—the engineering support arm of the operation) offices, as well.

When I say “catwalk”, I don’t mean to imply a skeletal structure such as one might see in factories or refineries or action movies. It was a fully enclosed, carpeted walkway, with windows on either side looking over the control room—it was probably ten or more feet wide—it was a substantial structure. Aside from facilitating travel from one wing to the other, it was also the perfect spot to give tours an overview of the operation before taking them downstairs for a closer view.

ATC sectors in control room—purportedly ZME (Click on picture for larger image)
IBM 9020 computer in control room at ZJX in the ’60s (Click on picture for larger image)

These images were taken from the bridge in an ARTCC—ZME, I’m told—they all look very much alike inside. The top one is of the sectors area. As big as the control room was, only half was used for direct ATC. The other half, at various times has housed the computer, computer support devices, AF operations, and, when DSR was installed, a shadow ATC wing with the new sectors, mirroring the old ones until the transition was complete. The latter was the state of affairs when I visited ZJX in the Summer of ’99. At that time, the operations were all in the new area, and the old sectors, some of which were probably still carrying some of my grime, were stripped of equipment and awaiting terminal dismantlment.

The lower image is from the bridge in the opposite direction from the upper image. This actually is ZJX and shows the original 9020 computer installation. I walked on that floor among those units at one time.

Anyway, as the story goes, one of the ZNY guys had driven in for a midnight shift towing his small boat—I don’t have the details, but it has to have been something like a john boat or small bass boat. In any event, some enterprising folks—probably swing shifters who’d already signed out and were in full loiter mode in the parking lot—came up with the idea of relocating the boat, a not dissimilar activity from others often practiced. Aggravating the enterprise was the fact that the boat owner was their crew chief (team supervisor, first level manager, etc.). They gathered around the boat, lifted it off the trailer, carried it in the back door at the loading dock, maneuvered it up the stairs, out onto the bridge, set the boat down, and departed.

The denouement came eight hours later when the mid shifter signed out, went to the parking lot, and saw car and trailer where he’d left them, but no boat. As in other such stories, details of how he found the boat, how long it took him, etc., are unimportant. It’s the act of malefaction that’s the story—not the least of which was a tweaking the boss component—and this was a good one.

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Last updated: 27 September 2012