Airway Pioneer Member
Robert V "Bob" Ensten

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I was born and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked in the family clothing manufacturing business for a number of years, going from floor sweeper to assistant to the president, but decided not to make it a career. I really wanted to fly. After being rejected by about 29 different airlines, each time for a different reason, I took the test to become an air traffic controller and was hired at Oakland Center on March 25, 1969.

I progressed through the training to become a journeyman controller in 1972. I remained at the center for another two years. Finally, in March 1974, I got my opportunity to move to Phoenix TRACON. In 1978 I was selected as a Data Systems Specialist at Phoenix, and stayed in that position for two years. Then I received the rare opportunity to move to the Regional HQ in Hawthorne as the Region's Automation Specialist. The next three years I served not only as the Automation Specialist, but also as an Airspace and Obstruction Evaluation Specialist, and a pilot for the KingAir and other aircraft we needed to utilize during and after the controller strike of 1981. By 1984, I was burned out by working 60 to 70 hour weeks. I received a transfer to Burbank Tower and TRACON as an Area Supervisor. This was the first time I could actually see the aircraft I was controlling. I loved tower control. I never wanted to work in the TRACON, but, in 1988 the two facilities were split and
I no longer had a choice. In 1990 I moved to the Bay Area as the Facility Manager at San Carlos Tower. In 1989, the FAA started talking about offering early retirements, and I began planning. Finally, in 1990, they allowed us to pick our dates, and I pulled the plug on April 30, 1990. I hated to say good-bye, but it was time to move on.

As fate would have it, seventeen days after I retired I was back at work, this time in the travel business. Two weeks later I was attending college full time. I received a certificate from Canada College in Redwood City after completing all the required courses, and then some, in the Travel and Tourism program. My one-person agency has done well for me. It keeps me off the street, allows me to work 50 to 60 hours a week again, and makes me enough money that I can actually take a couple of trips each year. But most important, it has brought me into contact with many new friends around the country and around the world. In October 2000, I began working part-time with another agency that needed some expert help in their office. Since I had done leisure travel almost exclusively, and their business is almost all corporate, it is a whole new world for me. I love the challenge.

About the time I retired, I joined the San Mateo County Sheriff's Air Patrol, flying their Cessna 182, then the 206 on all types of surveillance and other missions. In 1995, after nearly a year of unbearable pain, I had a total hip replacement. I woke up from the anesthesia a totally new person. Five years later the only thing that reminds me of the operation is the scar. No pain, no limp, and able to dance as I never could before.

Other than that, and general "old age complaints," my health has been good. I pray that it stays that way. When I moved to Marin County in 1996, I joined the Marin County Sheriff's Air Patrol, doing basically what I did in San Mateo County, except more of it. In Marin County, we also fly on routine patrols around the county to back up the ground units. We use a newly rebuilt Air Force T-41B, which is a Cessna 172 with an oversized engine and a slightly different wing. It is a great aircraft for what we do.

I attended my first SOAP reunion at Lake Tahoe in 2000. I hope to come to many more. It was good seeing many of the people I had not seen in many years. I thank you all for making me feel welcome.

Society of Airway Pioneers
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