Thursday, February 16, 2006

Grounded on 9/11

In response to the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Authority ordered all planes out of the air. U.S. and Canadian air traffic controllers faced a calamity of epic proportions, how to safely re-route and land 6,500 planes carrying close to a million people.

For individual air traffic controllers, the work was chaotic, intense, and deceptively simple: pick a new route for each flight; radio instructions to turn; listen for pilot confirmation and hold traffic to keep airways from overcrowding.

From Cleveland, Ohio to Gander, Newfoundland, controllers on September 11th searched for alternate airports to land large jets even as their traumatised colleagues stream back from break rooms after watching the attacks on TV.


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