PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. - Air traffic controllers are used to dealing with emergencies, but one emergency situation that they handled last year, just got them some recognition.
A pilot of a Cessna had no way to slow down, but a team of Atlanta Air Traffic Controllers helped her get the plane on the ground safely. Now that team is receiving one of the industry's highest honors, the Archie League Medal of Safety.
“All right, uh, can I ask you one more favor, would you call my husband?” pilot Cathy Lewlan can be heard asking air traffic controller Mason Braddock on recording of that night. Braddock responded “Not a problem,” one of many reassurances he gave her that night.
Lewlan was 10 miles southwest of Atlanta on an aerial photography flight when her throttle became stuck. She had no way to slow her speed down.
Braddock and a team of colleagues at the Atlanta Large TRACON, or Terminal Radar Approach Control, had to find a way to get her down and decided to go with a rare move, having her land her single engine plane at the world’s busiest airport.
“Your about five miles west of the airport now and we're going to touchdown and cut power immediately to the plane once we touchdown. Do you understand that?” Braddock can be heard telling Lewlan on the recording.
Cathy acknowledged, but the fear in her voice is evident as she spoke to Braddock about what she wants him to tell her husband.
“If you could ask him to put a prayer chain out to my church and ask the whole church to start praying, and everybody listening. And I.. I.. it's all I need and tell him that I love him,” Lewlan requested that night.
She successfully landed the plane at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Tuesday, she shared her story.
“I don't deny it's still terrifying,” said Lewlan.
She sat alongside Braddock and the other team members who helped guide her to a safe landing.
“He very much was there for me. I knew behind the scenes there had to be a lot going on, just tremendous, tremendous, comfort and guidance. I couldn't' have done it anywhere else without this team,” said Lewlan.
Braddock through it all remained calm, but even he admits, this is not one they see every day.
“I guess I was pretty calm on the frequency, but we were scrambling too. Probably not as much as Cathy but we were definitely putting out heads together and pull our resources and find the best plan for her,” said Braddock.
The plan worked and next week the team will be honored in Las Vegas for their efforts.
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