March 8, 2011

Missing my Train

I've been traveling a lot lately, and work has been primarily focused on being an on-the-job-instructor. Its been quite the effort training my favorite trainee. He's come a long way; a few years ago, he was just a faithful reader of this blog, never imagining that he'd ever be assigned to my area. Now he's almost certified on all of his D-sides. So, other than that, there hasn't been much to write about.

Last week, though, I took a trip down to NYC on the train to visit my cousin and take a much anticipated tour of JFK Tower. The plan was to leave Sunday morning and come back Monday night. What was supposed to be 1-3 inches of snow overnight Saturday into Sunday turned out to be more like 1-3 inches an hour for a few hours. I managed to pull myself out of bed a little earlier than my dreary eyes would have cared for, and hit the road, bound for the train station about an hour away. The plows were not up that early, apparently, as I found myself driving 30-40 mph among a few early-bird tire tracks. By the time I was half way there, almost an hour had passed. I knew that there was another train about an hour later, but changing to that train would be more expensive. At this point, I was in a slow, single-file line, with plenty of fresh, powdery snow on either side of the trail the cars had created. I felt like I could drive a little faster and be OK in the lane I was in, but in shin-deep snow? I could probably make it. I have all wheel drive. Heck, I could maybe even make my train if I pushed it. But, I didn't push it. I accepted that I was much safer in the lane I was in, at the speed I was currently traveling. It might cost a little extra, and take more time, if I missed my train, but if I wrecked my car on the highway, my perspective would change drastically. Car repairs, injuries to myself and maybe others around me, and increased insurance premiums would make the extra hour, and costing about 35 dollars extra, seem rather petty. And so, in about three seconds of actual thought process, I made the simple decision to drive slower, keep my tires on concrete, and get to the station in one piece.

This is the same decision all air traffic controllers make about 10,000 times a day. Safety wins every time. Delaying aircraft costs time and money, we know that. But the alternative isn't really worth it for anyone, and it gets taken for granted. What are the chances that I would have crashed my car? If there was a remote chance, than I chose otherwise. Getting to NYC late is WAY better than never getting there. All the airplanes landing late is better than 99.9 percent of them landing on time and losing the other .1 percent. Although, what are the chances of you, or someone you know, being on that .1 percent of flights that never land at an airport intact? You don't have to answer that.

I'll just keep doing what I do best, and you just keep getting on airplanes and getting where you need to go in one piece. Deal.

Oh, so about JFK:

It was hazy, but there were lots of big airplanes.

Thanks to all the JFK controllers who let me hang out with them for half the afternoon! And thanks also for guiding me through the crawl space so I could get out onto the roof (of the administration wing that sticks out of the tower) to take these pics!

PS. A few miles after I decided there was no point in dangerously rushing to get to the train station, I reached the point where it had only been raining, and so we all could speed up and I got to the station with 2 minutes to spare! Lesson is the same. Safety first!

Till next time....