Margaret Sanders, ATCO – An example to follow

On 13/05/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

When I first embarked on our project to collect information about women in air traffic control in general and then about the first women air traffic controllers in the US, I did not think about a fact of life that is the other inevitable thing besides taxes… Many of those first pioneering ladies have flown West now and I am almost too late for collecting their stories to share with you for the enjoyment and education of us all. Luckily there are still many controllers who have worked with them or met them later in life and I am getting a lot of support from them in the form of written accounts and relics of all kinds.

This time I am bringing you the story of Margaret Sanders as told by our contributor Virginia. She in turn used Margaret’s obituary for some of the detail. Margaret passed away in June 2009 but if you read her story you will see just how resilient and flexible controllers really are.

Margaret Arlene Sanders was born in Canton, Kan., to parents Laura and Joe Anderson on Nov. 16, 1910. As her older brother, Curtis, used to say, “She is much smarter than I am, so she too must go to college.” Her father relented and Margaret graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism.

After graduation she began a series of careers writing. She wrote a column for a newspaper under a man’s name, wrote advertising for department stores and the newspaper. She wrote a national award-winning ad campaign for the Kansas State Fair in the early ’30s, but when it came time for the award to be presented in Washington, D.C., her boss, a man, was sent to receive it. Margaret was the first woman to work as a “utilization specialist” for the Rural Electrification Administration, “selling” farms on the idea of using electric appliances in their homes.

Click here to read the full article

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Women in ATC – Echoes from the past

On 20/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

The subject of women in air traffic control is dear to my heart for several reasons one of which is that I did play a small role in setting the scene for girls to be eventually accepted as ATC cadets in Hungary. The real achievement belongs to the ladies themselves who completed the fight but I do have fond memories of the first steps we took and which were anything but easy.

Anyway, with this background it was only natural that my blog should also take up the subject and it is with real pleasure that I noted just how much interest there is for it amongst you.

This time I would like to share with you some material kindly provided by one of our readers, Evon Russell, who is distinguished by being the daughter of one of the first women air traffic controllers while her dad was also a controller!

Her mom, Marian McKenna flew west several years ago and she was recently followed by another woman controller, Mary Elizabeth Chance VanScyoc who passed away on 9 February. These two ladies are special because they were the first and second female controllers in the US. It is commonly thought that Mary was the first but Marian often said to her daughter that she was in fact the first, even if the difference had only been a few days or weeks. I have no means to ascertain the facts and in a way this is probably not too important anyway. Or is it?

Click here to read the full article

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Obituary – Mary Elizabeth (Chance) VanScyoc

On 12/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

The lady recognized by most accounts as the first woman controller in the US has passed away.

VanScyoc, Mary Elizabeth (Chance), 91, passed away Wednesday, February 9, 2011. Mary was born on Dec 26, 1919 to Gerald and Lois Chance in Wichita. She obtained her pilots license at age 20, graduated from Wichita University and became the first female air traffic controller in the United States in June of 1942. Mary married Evart Breece VanScyoc on October 10, 1947 in Wichita. She taught girls P.E. and started an aviation class in Augusta from 1961-1974. Mary wrote a book entitled “A Lifetime of Chances” and was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002. Survivors include her daughters Betty Carson of Wichita and Martha Shaw and her husband Mark of Gainesville, Florida; five grandchildren Danny (Tifyne) Carter, Paula (Sam) Holland; David (Kira) Carter; Ronda (Robert) Thomas and Gina (Curtis) Baxter and 14 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents; spouse; son Gary; brother Richard Harold Chance and a sister Geraldine Chance. Visitation will be held Sunday, February 13, from 3-5 p.m. at the funeral home. Funeral service will be at Faith Christian Church, 2110 West 45th Street, South in Wichita on Tuesday, February 15, at 1:00 p.m. Interment to follow in Elmwood Cemetery in Augusta. A memorial has been established with the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 South George Washington Blvd, Wichita, Kansas 67210 or in care of the funeral home. Dunsford-Zeiner Funeral Home 201 East Fifth Avenue, Augusta, Kansas (316) 775-6363.

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The Story of Alpha Mike (Part 2)

On 04/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by arminda

The Road to Becoming an En-route Air Traffic Controller

To continue with my story, let me just go back to that time when, in 1981, I received an Order transferring me to the Manila Area Control Center (ACC), eight years after I graduated from an air traffic control training course. The ATC staffing crisis – brought about by the exodus of ATCs to the Middle East for better pay – had given way to my dream of working as an air traffic controller; this time, the ATC units are more welcoming when it comes to accepting women in the workforce. I began my certification or rating process only a few weeks after I reported for work, it seemed that there was a rush to put ATCs into jobs that require years of training.

Arminda with the first Manila radar

Back then, the Manila ACC had no radar systems yet; separation of aircraft was done using procedural or conventional control – where ATC’s main tools in controlling traffic were just paper strips mounted on plastic strip holders, a ball pen, and a radio transceiver. The flight progress strips, as they’re called have all the information ATCs need – aircraft call-sign, type of aircraft, airspeed, route to be flown, and altitude, among others (all handwritten); color of strips depends on the direction of flight – white strips for eastbound, buff or yellow for westbound traffic. You don’t have to have a high IQ to get this job done; it’s more of imagination and guts you need. Imagination in this case means being able to make a picture in your mind of what’s going on up there as you look at those information on paper strips with a map or chart already ingrained in your mind, as if seeing aircraft moving across the skies; and have the guts, as you separate aircraft from each other though not actually seeing them; then, based on this mental picture you either climb or descend aircraft converging or on opposite direction – with no doubt in your mind that they had indeed passed each other after you clear one through the altitude of the other; that your mental calculations were correct when you make split second decisions.

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Women in Air Traffic Control

On 03/02/2011, in Women in ATC, by steve

My original article about the difficult road women wanting to become air traffic controllers (and commercial pilots…) faced in the early days seems to have struck a chord in several parts of the world. First there was Aminda’s lovely contribution from the Philippines then Evon Russel contacted me on Facebook with a link to an article at the Wings Over Kansas site which talks about whet they claimed was the first American female controller, Mary Van Scyoc.

Evon wrote something very interesting. She said that her mom, Marian McKenna Russel was also a controller in the 40s and that she had said to her that she believed she preceded Mary by a little bit. Unfortunately Marian has departed to the world where airports do not know delays and so it is not easy to verify the claim.

I did decide to follow this up and sent an email to the Kansas Aviation Museum where Mary van Scyoc could be reached according to the article quoted above. A day later while I was on the motorway in France the director of the museum called and explained that Mary was very sick and it is not possible to interview her any more. He did promise that the museum’s historians will help with my quest…

On learning Mary’s fate, Evon again helped by pointing me to a book Mary had written, entitled “A Lifetime of Chances”. She said the book should shed some light on Mary’s life as a controller.

Click here to read the full article

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The story of Alpha Mike

On 11/01/2011, in Women in ATC, by arminda

It was in summer of 1971 when I started training for air traffic control at the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Air Academy in Manila, Philippines. Actually, it was only the fourth time since 1957 that they accepted women in ATC training classes, the last one being in 1963. All those years, only 11 women graduated and were hired. Our training class started out with about 67 trainees, divided into 2 sections of 30 or more trainees in a class, but only 34 graduated; the others did not survive the dreaded washout, meaning they had failed in some final exams in 3 subjects. In April of 1972, we were hired and received our facility assignment, but the three of us (women who graduated) did not get to be assigned in any of the three ATC facilities i.e. Tower, Approach or Area Control Center (ACC) also known as Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), an FAA term.

I was a bit depressed because I was hoping that our assignment would be in ATC facilities. I knew my father wasn’t excited about the assignment either because he also wanted me to become an air traffic controller (ATC), being a former ATC himself. As a matter of fact, my father was among the pioneers in air traffic control in the Philippines. He and six others were the first Filipinos to be trained by the U.S. FAA in 1948. During the early postwar years, the U.S. FAA was in charge of the technical phase of ATC operations for the Philippine government. My father and their group formed the nucleus of the ATC section which was later transferred to the Philippine government in 1951. I guess I was not meant to follow his footsteps.

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The long and winding road – women in the cockpit and the control tower

On 27/12/2010, in Women in ATC, by steve

To-day, nobody bats an eye at the sight of a four-striper with long blond hair and lipstick hauling her flight case like her male colleagues do. Even an all female crew in the front office is commonplace these days. A female voice on the control frequency is also quite normal now in most of the world. But this was not always so and in some countries the going was more difficult than in others.

Even after female pilots on commercial flights were no longer a rarity, public reservations resulted in Air Inter telling the passengers of its Paris-Nimes flight on 7 February 1985 that it had been operated by an all female crew… only after they landed! This was a historic event, an absolute first in France.

Perhaps the most convoluted story comes from Hungary where girls had to put up a fierce fight to be allowed a shot at the microphone in international ATC service.

Back in the 70s and 80s Hungarian labor law had a list of professions that were not open to women. These concerned mainly work requiring a lot of physical strength but for some reason, “air traffic controller” was also among them. When asked why this should be so, some kind of weird explanation was given about women having fewer red blood cells that effectively prevented them from working in ATC. The fact that women in other countries were getting licensed and worked to everyone’s satisfaction did not seem to change anything. Hungarian women, apparently, were different…

Click here to read the full article

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