Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Doug Lewis is control tower Manager of the Year: Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (KITH), Ithaca, New York

Relatively speaking, it’s been a difficult year for the Air Traffic Control Tower up at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport when considering that federal sequestration nearly forced its closure earlier this year.

But, good news this week: Doug Lewis, manager of the Ithaca Tompkins’ Air Traffic Control Tower, was presented with the 2013 Manager of the Year award during a ceremony at the airport.

Lewis was chosen from a field that included managers from around 40 northeast facilities employed with control-tower workers from Midwest ATC Service, a contract tower company. Randy Walls, Manager of Air Traffic Services, Eastern Terminal Service Area, for Midwest ATC Service, flew in to present the award to Lewis in recognition of his exemplary service as tower manager as well as his dedication to safe aircraft operations. Administrators created Lewis with initiating and conducting annual educational sessions for the region’s private pilots in and around Ithaca.

An Orchard Park native and current Elmira resident, Lewis has worked up at the Ithaca control tower for a dozen years, being named manager in 2007. He began his control tower career in 1967 as a U.S. Navy man and, in the mid-1970s, he was employeed with the Federal Aviation Administration at the Elmira airport. In 1981, he got involved with the air-traffic controllers strike and lost his job along with 11,000 others after President Reagen fired them for failing to return to the job. Lewis said he took a 20-year hiatus from air-traffic control work before settling in at Ithaca Tompkins Regional airport, which contracts with Midwest ATC Service for its five air-traffic controllers.

“It’s always been a passion, I’d say,” Lewis said. “It’s a type of occupation that really challenges you. It’s hardly ever the same, and you rarely get bored.”

The Tuesday award ceremony was a nice surprise for Lewis, who used the opportunity to offer his appreciation for his four fellow controllers. All told, the group’s 85 cumulative years of experience make for a solid, excellent team, he said.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized. I have the good fortune to work at a facility that has excellent controllers,” he said. “I’m kind of a player-coach in that regard. There’s a lot of experience between them, and they make my job easier.”

Early 2013 was a rocky time for a majority of countrywide control towers that contract out for employees. Exactly 149 of the country’s 251 contract towers, including Ithaca’s, were threatened with closure due to a sequestration agreement affecting all government departments. After much lobbying and the support of local and regional leaders, the threat was averted and funding made available to keep all the towers open. The government, senate and house of representatives have all appropriated money in their budgets for full funding of the towers in fiscal year 2014.

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