Airway Pioneer Member
Ron Nichol

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I was born and raised on the south side of Pittsburgh, PA. After graduating from high school I enlisted in the Air Force and went through basic training at Sampson AFB in 1955. During career counseling my first offer was to go to Yale and learn Chinese; I was a dumb kid from the south side but I knew where Formosa was and I pictured myself there as an interpreter so I said no thanks. My second offer was Air Traffic Control; I had no idea what that involved, but I was afraid to say no twice so that couple of minutes determined the course of my life.

After ATC School at Keesler AFB, I got lucky and was assigned to RAF Station Manston, England, arriving there a few days before Christmas in 1955. Manston was located in beautiful Kent near the seaside resort town of Margate and only 60-miles from London. I was assigned to the tower and spent the next two-and-a-half years there as a controller and supervisor until the base was closed down in summer of 1958. I was sent back to the states on a troop ship (the same one that took Elvis to Germany on the return trip) arriving back home in July. My last assignment was to Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana where I finished my tour and was discharged in 1959.

Through ignorance I had missed the GI Bill by six weeks when I enlisted so I was not able to go to college. I applied for the FAA in 1960 and was hired for the Huntington, WV Flight Service Station in August. I had no idea what an FSS was, but I needed a job. I spent three years in the FSS option before transferring to tower at the same location. It took another three years to get selected for BWI, where I worked until going to the Academy as a terminal instructor in 1974. Sixteen months after going to OKC I was selected as a supervisor at San Carlos Tower in the Bay Area of California. Eighteen months after that I was selected as a supervisor at Davis-Monthan RAPCON, in Tucson where I spent the next three years. I had been taking college courses in night school since Baltimore and managed to get an Associates Degree.

In early 1981 I was selected as a specialist in the terminal procedures branch in FAA Hdq. This was where I finally learned how the organization worked! The two-and-a-half years that I spent there were highly educational and enjoyable. I went through the manager's assessment program and was selected as the deputy at Bay Tracon in late 1983. This was another great job and learning experience. While there I completed my BA in management at St. Mary's College of California. In 1987 I was selected as the air traffic hub manager at Austin, TX. Austin was another terrific experience, a great facility with a first-class staff. I finished my FAA career there retiring at the end of 1991.

In January 1992 I started work for Adsystech, Inc. a minority-owned small business, in support of the FAA's advanced automation program in Washington. Nine months later I transferred to DFW to work as the site coordinator for the Center Tracon Automation System (CTAS), a joint FAA/NASA project. This job lasted until late 2001 at which time I went to work under contract for MIT/Lincoln Laboratory as their site coordinator for the Runway Status Light Project at DFW, which is what I'm currently doing. Along the way, I finished my master's in the Humanities (History).

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