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Inside the Tower
By Christina Basken
July 25, 2019 - Wittman Regional Airport Operations Manager Erin Rausch took a brief break to talk about her experience working in the World's Busiest Control Tower during the week of AirVenture.
"As operations manager in the tower we are responsible for overseeing the entire event," Erin said. "We are responsible for the coordination of everything that happens in the tower with the controllers down on the runways, out at Fond du Lac, and also everything happening at Fisk. We are responsible for being the go-between for all those different entities. We also coordinate with EAA in terms of the ground parking plans, movement on the airfield, and then also with EAA operations in terms of aircraft coming in, the military jet aircraft, and even air shows as well."
This is Erin's second year working at Wittman as an operations manager during the week, and her eighth year at the event. Erin started as a controller, became a supervisor, and last year became an operations manager. Next year, Erin will become Wittman Regional Airport's air traffic manager.
Erin is currently an air traffic manager at her home facility in South Bend, Indiana.
"This is very different," Erin said. "The facility that I'm at is a mid-level facility, so in terms of numbers of operations, this is a lot busier but a lot of the same rules still come across from the home facility to back here. Here we have a lot more volume, but we also have a lot more people to help with that as well."
Erin said a huge part in making sure all operations are successful is teamwork.
"All of our controllers work in teams," Erin said. "So we have different levels of experience so our veterans and our team leads are there to help kind of coach and bring along our limited controllers who have only been there for two or three years, and then our rookies. We have to work together as a team and really rely on one another. There's a lot of trust involved and just a lot of communication between the teams."
The job of an operations manager is no easy task, especially when faced with bad weather like Oshkosh was early in the week.
"Any time that there is any kind of bad weather, especially thunderstorms, that's a challenge for us," Erin said. "The challenge this year has really just been the amount of water that came with all the storms this past weekend. So that's made a lot of the ground areas soft and just not usable for taxiing aircraft, so that part of it has been a little bit challenging."
Erin's advice for anyone wanting to become an air traffic controller is to "hop right in and go for it."
"I started out as a pilot and switched over to being a controller," Erin said. "There's so many great opportunities in aviation. Call your local airport, see how you can get a tour, get involved. Many control towers are willing to have visitors and show people what it's about. We are excited. It's a great career, and we are very proud being controllers so it's definitely something that we would love to share with people that are interested."