Commercial Drones PilotsWhat it’s like to be in a job that has no room for error

September 20, 2021by helo-10

MOSINEE, Wis. (WSAW) – A career as an air traffic controller means there is no room for errors. Two workers from inside the air traffic control tower at the Central Wisconsin Airport explained what exactly they do.

“You just always have to be on your game. You got to be paying attention and know what’s going on at all times,” Air Traffic Controller, Keegan Korbol said.

Korbol’s manager said it’s a job he used to daydream about back when he was in school.

“My teachers always complained all I did was look out the windows…and they said I would never amount to anything if I didn’t pay attention…well they were wrong. Look at the windows now, I do it all day every day,” Air Traffic Control Manager, Doug Reppond said.

But it’s not only eyes to the sky.

“Every morning he has to check all the equipment, everything, the radios, he does communications check with Minneapolis center, we do a time check to make sure we are on the same time,” Reppond said.

And that’s only step one.

“We have been mandated to do a lot more than we did 30 years ago,” Reppond said.

That’s because of new regulations set by the FAA, which stem from incidents the FAA has investigated to prevent them from happening again.

“We make sure everybody has all the updated weather,” Reppond explained. “If you’re from Wisconsin you should know that can change every hour, on the hour, or five times in one hour.”

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, are another thing keeping the controllers on their toes.

“If pilots, when they fly in here, they don’t see something and get scared and wave off…We have to really be on our toes…” Reppond explained. “Our main job is the safe, efficient, expeditious flow of air traffic.”

Every commercial flight out of the airport has to have a release from Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis center is our overlying radar controller…so 14:22, he can go to 14:30 to 14:32. we have to get him out in that two-minute window. He has to be rolling down a runway,” Reppond said.

If the pilot doesn’t make it in that time frame, the air traffic controllers have to call for a new release.

“That could take another 15-20 minutes, it could delay him for up to an hour,” Reppond explained. “But…that doesn’t matter it’s still a great job.”

“It’s a lot you have to juggle at once, but it’s like any other job, you learn to manage it well enough you that you’re able to do it safely,” Korbol said.

“We don’t want anything to ever happen up here, period,” Reppond noted.

Copyright 2021 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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