Airway Pioneer Member
Robert E. Swanson

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I have never really considered myself an aviation "pioneer," but when I think back to 1950, when I first began in the ATC business at NAS North Island, maybe so. Those were the days of Green, Amber, Red and Blue Airways, (I think those were the colors, anyway. Anyone remember which directions they all went? I can't) "Manual" Approach Control, Low Frequency Ranges and handheld carbon mikes. Radar, the VORs and the Victor Airway System were just beginning to make an appearance on the aviation scene. That may not seem very far back to some SOAP members, but it must seem absolutely antediluvian to a controller today.

It was 36 years in all, and what years they were. Beginning with the CAA/FAA at LAX in the 50s and 60s, my career took me to the east coast where I did an R&D tour at Atlantic City, then to Washington HQ, then back to the Western Region, the Regional HQ at Los Angeles and finally closed out at San Diego TRACON.

It was a different "work culture" then, in the earlier years especially. At LAX, the camaraderie was unlike anything I have ever experienced before or since and was based largely on politically incorrect but universally shared values of high ability and performance standards. Many of the close friendships formed then, I'm pleased to say, are still active. A few date back to the Navy days, some 50-plus years ago. Several of those old friends are SOAP members who I get to see from time to time. (There are other SOAP members that I know as well, and with whom I'd be pleased to communicate, cyberspace being such an easy way to do so.) Those who shared the same career era know that it was also a window of aviation history the likes of which will never be seen again. It was only a period of a little over 2 decades, but what a sea change. Everything from a huge nationwide capital improvement program in airports, a total commercial fleet change out to jets, through automation, to coast- to-coast/border-to-border radar coverage. We saw it all happen and surely did, "live in interesting times."

In the latter part of my FAA career and after retirement, I took up sailing in a big way and logged many miles at sea on both coasts, the Caribbean and Mexico. I finally sold my beloved sloop "BOBBILU" and although I still sail on occasion, that "career" is winding down. My partner through all of the above, and my wife of 44 years, (The real "Bobbilu") also completed an aviation career with AAL while managing to raise 2 great kids (5 grandsons) and keep up a functioning household as well. She, sometimes reluctantly, served as first mate for many of the sailing adventures as well.

Interesting times, indeed.

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