October 17, 2012

Ok. Now what?

From the time I realized that talking to ATC on the radio was my favorite part of flying to the the moment my instructor unplugged and walked away after my final checkride, over a decade had transpired.  The majority of my life was focused on learning aviation and attempting to become a better trainee than I was yesterday.   I received a warm round of congratulations from those in the control room at that moment, but it only marked the end of the miseries and struggles of training, so it didn't seem like the end of anything worth holding on to;  my first thought was "Ok, now what?"

One of the last words of advice my instructor gave me was that my learning was far from over, and that I wouldn't "peak" as a controller for a few more years.  The peak, he explained would occur after I gained experience working on my own during day-to-day operations while still being young and fast.  After that peak, my speed would slowly diminish over time, but gained experience would carry me forward. 
So, I guess I have peaked.  I am at a stage now I could not have imagined 15 years ago.  I have never had a job for this long before.  I admit, I am not learning something new and exciting every day.  I have followed up my "Ok, now what" moment with years of fabulous non-ATC activities though, so don't feel bad for me.  Things at work are happening over and over again, with slight variables, and I spend my career making sure the planes don't hit despite these variables.  It is still very enjoyable, just not necessarily "blog-worthy".  This is my career.  It's no longer my life.  I'm still wrapping my head around that reality. 

I have spent the few years since my "peak" attempting to pass along what I've learned to someone else.  The truth is, I am still learning about aviation.  Instruction is a vital part of the industry.  I am definitely not the best instructor that I could be, but it's just another aspect of my life that is a work in progress and there is more to learn.  TQ and I have spent the last few years learning together.  He, about the basics of working planes through Area A.  Myself, about myself and how instructing doesn't always solely involve the passing of knowledge.  I discussed this conundrum in the previous post about patience and confidence. 

And so..........I am proud to announce that TQ is now fully certified! 

Both of us reached another "Ok, now what?" moment together.  His was predictable, but his life without me constantly harassing him has been filled with sudden tragedy outside of work along with pending home ownership.  Hopefully the quest to still improve at work has been an adequate distraction for him now that his post-training life is unfolding differently than he would have expected.

I set out to find things to keep myself occupied during the slower, less complex months of winter traffic.  Many of you have heard of ERAM, our main computer software replacement.  I'm sure if you scour the adjacent sectors in the right hand column, you'll be able to find out more!  Boston Center is getting ERAM this month, to be released only on overnight shifts at first, then only on slow days, and then eventually full time.  Every controller in the building needs to learn how it works before it can be turned on during the day.  I volunteered to learn it first and then help teach it to the others.  So far, the scheduling of training has been very last minute, uncoordinated, and has interfered with other stuff I have volunteered for, as well.  It is what it is.

In addition, I have proposed the creation of a new Standard Terminal Arrival Route into TEB.  The papertrail has begun, and hopefully meetings with other controllers will soon follow to set up a procedure that helps everyone improve traffic flow and safety.  I have no idea what the timeframe is for full implementation. 
---- So, now what?

I don't have the time or the motivation or the new material to write about this job 3 times a month like I used to.  But I keep getting web views and your personal emails when I write new posts, so I have an audience and I can keep teaching aspects of my job that others can learn from.  I take this seriously;  I'll keep writing.  As I've learned, patience is an important part of teaching.  It is an important part of learning, too.   Thank you for reading.

Till next time...