Air Traffic Controller watching skies for fifty years - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Air Traffic Controller watching skies for fifty years

June 30, 2003

Albany-- It's an important and highly stressful job. But one Albany air traffic controller has been on the job for fifty years and is still loving every minute in the tower.

"What that man will do is come in here, enter on the down wind, report to the base right here and come in on Runway Four." Al Stanford is guiding a Cessna 210 to a safe landing at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, while keeping tabs of several other planes.

When asked how he keeps track of all the different planes, Stanford points to his head and says, "Right here." For fifty years, Stanford has worked as an air traffic controller, a high stress job that burns out most people quick. But Stanford says, "Stress is what you make it, not the job."

This is fun for Stanford, but like every air traffic controller out there you have your bad days--very bad, "I've seen some bad crashes, one of the worst I've ever seen is in Japan." Stanford was on the job in Japan when a cargo plane carrying 129 people lost both engines and crashed, killing everyone on board.

Stanford says, "Things happen. Just like a car accident. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. You do the best with what you have. Go back in tomorrow and do the same job. You can't let it haunt you." That philosophy is why Stanford has lasted so long in this job--and may explain why he stays on the ground.

"No never been a pilot. Never been one." This air traffic controller prefers to be in the tower, "I like it better this way, I like to sit back and control them. I have got my feet on the ground." Because Stanford keeps his feet on the ground, pilots in Albany can keep to the skies, knowing fifty years of experience is guiding them home.

Al Stanford started as an air traffic controller with the Air Force when he was 17. He served in the Korean War for two years as a controller, earning several medals, including the Silver Star.

Posted at 4:11 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com