Issue Of Trust
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Business News Briefs
An Air Traffic Controller's Takeoff on Trust
Terry Shell has spent years with his head in the clouds.
A veteran air traffic controller, Shells resume includes years as
an air traffic controller for the military and the Atlanta Hartsfield International
Airport (ranked #2 in the world for total passenger count). Shell currently
works for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and serves as a liaison
for developing new technology to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
What is your definition of trust?
My idea of trust, in general, is when you can share anything with somebody
about your life and not worry about being misinterpreted or misunderstoodlike
a relationship with a family member.
How does trust apply to your profession?
Trust is especially important in air traffic control where you rely on the
people next to you day in and day out. Its an integral part of the
team structure that exists in air traffic control. The trust between air
traffic controllers and pilots is a different kind of trust, more of a respect
and a professional trust. Its more of an understanding of what to
expect from certain pilots and airlines. As you grow with years of experience,
you learn how to make adjustments, you learn to expect certain things.
Without trust, describe the consequences/situations
you would face?
In air traffic control, for example, youve got your feeder and final
controller. The feeder sets up the initial pattern utilizing the minimum
spacing aloud, setting altitude and speed. The final controller has to rely
on the feeder to bring the planes in right. If I trust the feeder I wouldnt
have to worry about scrambling to fix things. As a final controller my job
will go easier and smoother if everything is lined up. Without this trust,
youd always be watching the person next to you to see if theyre
doing their job properly.
How do you build trust?
Trust builds from the team concept. You have to trust the person next to
you. Trust is built over years of working with people day in and day out.
Youre ego cant be too big. In our job, and I was like this when
I was younger, people are cocky. Its just part of the personality
of being an air traffic controller theres a lot of lives depending
on you. To build trust you have to be able to talk to people, to accept
Can you repair trust? If so, how?
Everything is repairable. When trust gets broken though, it takes time to
build it up. Youve got to be accountable for your actions and recognize
that you may be the weak link in the team. Youve got to be able to
solicit advice and to thank people when they help you out.