AP NEWS

Air traffic controller honored for emergency landing aid

February 23, 2019

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A Navy air traffic controller has been nominated for a national award after guiding a pilot to a successful emergency landing last year.

Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Jonathan Epperson has been nominated for the Navy’s 2018 Vice Admiral Robert B. Pirie Air Traffic Controller of the Year award, The Meridian Star reported.

Epperson works at Meridian Naval Air Station. Last October, he guided Boyd Williams through an emergency landing on U.S. 45 in Clarke County after Williams’ plane experienced engine failure. No one was injured in the emergency landing.

Williams has accumulated more than 500 flight hours as a private pilot. He said Epperson’s composure that afternoon was a model for air traffic controllers.

“An ideal air traffic controller is someone who thinks clearly, is calm and resourceful and respectful,” Williams said. “Someone who is accommodating and reasonable with requests. and he was all of those things. He was the calm, one person on the ground who could relate to what I was going through and knew what I was going through. He was my lifeline - a person on the ground to coordinate potential.”

A 16-year Navy veteran, Epperson said that when he was joining the Navy, he and a friend had whittled their choices down to culinary specialist and air traffic controller. Epperson flipped a coin for the final assist.

“It’s crazy that something so simple can guide your fate,” Epperson, 33, said. “It was always destined, and that’s the thing my mom and dad always told me. Your path is laid out for you prior to. You get to make choices along the way, but your path is laid out for you.”

He served earlier in Hawaii, Washington and aboard two aircraft carriers.

Generally, when you’re on shore duty, you’re training guys and getting them ready to fight and go into the fleet,” Epperson said. “When you’re on that carrier, you’re in the fleet. The guys who you’re talking to, they’re going out and they’re actually executing the mission that they have prepared for. It puts life into perspective.”

Epperson said mentoring younger controllers is the most satisfying part of his job.

“Teaching the junior sailors — that’s what brings the most joy to me,” Epperson said. “You’re teaching these young guys and girls, these young sailors, to think about somebody besides themselves, to put somebody else first.”

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Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com