Airway Pioneer Member
Robert D. "Bob" Earl

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Once upon a time in 1955, my air traffic control career began. It happened at Los Angeles Center. I was just a young airman in the United States Air Force. Following the Grand Canyon accident, but more importantly because my AF/CAA tour ended, I departed LA Center. I continued my Air Force commitment by providing enroute air traffic control in Korea and terminal radar control at Selfridge RAPCON. In December 1958 I returned to LA Center as a FAA employee. However, I soon developed a case of nepotism by marrying Dick McReynold's sister. One of us had to leave. I opted to re-settle at McChord RAPCON in May 1959.

A year later, I left the FAA to attend college. Following a 3-year sabbatical from the FAA to attend college, an exercise I found to be more difficult than air traffic control, I renewed my relationship with the FAA. In September 1963 I reinstated at Seattle Center, a commitment that lasted until I retired from Las Vegas Tower/TRACON in 1994 with 38 years of federal service.

The renewal of my journey with the FAA started at Seattle Center in September 1963 in the Flight Data Pool, where I was only trusted with menial tasks. A hiring freeze had been in place for a long time and the terminal option was the first to be impacted. In October 1965 I volunteered to relocate to SeaTac Tower under a FAA program I nicknamed "The Terminal Re-Patriotization Program (TRP)". It worked for me as it did for a few others who came to SeaTac under the same program. However, the TRP was only temporarily funded and all too soon I was invited to bid to a facility of my choice or a new home would be found for me. I was selected for a vacancy and a permanent position in June 1966 at Edwards RAPCON.

After being on the "High Desert" for one year, I returned in 1967 to my native land, the Pacific Northwest. It was at Boeing Tower that I learned to enjoy Local Control. After awhile, the lure of radar and money gripped me and I returned to SeaTac Tower/TRACON as a full time permanent controller. It was during this tenure that few of us became sickly. Then, things began to happen. My journey took me back to Boeing Tower as a supervisor, then to manage Renton Tower, and from there to "the Bunker" - the Air Traffic Division.

In 1978, after I had sufficient time in the Bunker, I was selected to manage Yakima Tower. I scampered across the Cascade Mountains where I enjoyed the dryness of the climate, the sweetness of apples, and the semi-isolation from the Bunker. Then, in 1980, the mountain blew, and darkness came upon the valley. Moreover, in 1981, a great division came among the work force, and the apples became as vinegar to my palate. And I moved on, but not until 1984 when I was selected to manage Colorado Springs Tower/TRACON.

Colorado is very, very inland from the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains did not peak and support glaciers. Worse, the Orange Crush was displeasing to my sensitivities. And, I moved yet again. My final move came in 1987 when the lure of Sin City overcame me. I was selected to be the Assistant Manager of Las Vegas Tower/TRACON where I remained until January 1994 when I retired.

But alas, that was NOT the end! In May 1995 I became the first manager of the "new start" FAA Contract Tower in Chandler Arizona. "The Little Tower on the Desert" was established by Congressional mandate and was expected to fail. Instead, it has flourished and the 250,000 total operations in calendar year 2000 makes Chandler Tower the busiest contract tower in the nation. On July 13, 1998, after spending 3 years, 2 months and 4 hours in an Air Guard TSW-7 Mobil Tower, we moved into a new 8-story permanent structure. The cool interior is predominately decorated in forest green. It is affectionately known as "The Emerald Tower". Come visit us.

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