Jacksonville ARTCC Alumni

LRod’s ZJX Story

Going to “The Show”

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Well, I’ve hinted at Chicago—I might as well tell the story. I did not like Jacksonville. In fact, I did not like Florida. I felt like I was snatched from paradise as a ten year old (rural Western New York, hills, valleys, snow, seasons) and my new home was like living in the desert. When I moved to Jacksonville it felt like I was living in cracker desert. What’s Jeff Foxworthy say? “A glorious absence of sophistication.” While no one confuses me with sophisticated, I do appreciate a little of it, and I needed to find some. And before anyone leaps to its defense, let me point out that the Jacksonville of 2009, where my daughter lived for 2½ years, is not the same place euphemistically named at the time “the Bold New City of the South” of the late ’60s—early ’70s.

Moreover, I no longer felt challenged professionally in Jacksonville. Oh, sure, there was that dustup on 23 December 1972 that I wrote about on the Tales of ATC page, but that wasn’t routine, day-to-day traffic—that was an aberration, and actually more incentive to leave than stay. There were far too many periods of one or two airplanes at a time and far too few actual challenges in the rushes that did occur. Plus, the training pipeline had closed up and we were starting to have to pull strips off the printer again for a good part of the shift. Frankly, insofar as moving airplanes was concerned, I felt I had conquered all that Jacksonville had to throw at me. I wanted out.

In fact, I’d been trying to get out of Jacksonville for some time—even before I met Linda—bidding on supervisor jobs at towers in the region. Although I liked working airplanes, I had a notion that there were challenges to be conquered in the management track. I even visited a couple to try and get my hat in the ring. I chuckle now at my naiveté. Those jobs were probably already filled before they were announced and I later learned that there is a virtual one way door for inter facility transfers between centers and towers, and I was on the wrong side of it. One of the many things that angered me about the FAA was the countless bids I saw during my career for center supervisors, which were open to one and all in the center and tower option. Virtually every tower bid had a “center controllers need not apply” restriction on it. Seriously (although not in those specific words).

Nevertheless, there was a loophole. The two hardest to staff approach controls in the country were New York’s Common IFR Room (then called the Common I, and now known simply as NY TRACON), and ORD, Chicago O’Hare. There were open bids (no expiration date) for controllers at both, so, I bid on both. Echoing my earlier efforts of paying a visit, I made trips to each. As it turned out, Long Island wasn’t going to be a place I wanted to or could afford to live, so it was with relief that my bid wasn’t accepted. ORD, on the other hand, must have been more desparate, as sometime in January, 1973, I got a call to come north, all expenses paid.

Naturally we discussed it and Linda rightly had some reservations. Canadian born, she had never lived south of the 43rd parallel and in three years prior to coming to Jacksonville had lived even farther north in RST (44° North). Cold blooded anyway, she was just getting used to Florida and didn’t relish the prospect of heading back to the cold. I’ll never believe there wasn’t consensus in the decision to accept the bid so I’ll have to assume it was with positive sentiments and mutual agreement that we planted the For Sale sign in the yard, waved goodbye to the moving van, and pointed our car north in late February, 1973.

Goodbye, ZJX, hello, Chicago, which concludes this one sixth part of my life story. The rest, if you’re interested, is at my ownATC web page, which gave rise to this site.

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Last updated: 10 December 2011