June 1999 Issue

The Eyes Have It

No matter what technology is at work, nothing works as well as a sharp lookout

The column of black smoke rose like an obscene gesture to the north west of our control tower at Reid Hillview airport in San Jose, Calif. I’d just come off a break and saw it as I stepped into the tower cab. The ground controller was busy lining up a string of trainers from one of the flying schools.

The tower controller, or what we called the “Local” controller, had a loaded traffic pattern with two parallel runways – one full of touch and go traffic the other reserved for itinerants. It was a busy shift, no different than most, except for the black smoke.

The phone rang, “Did you guys lose one?” the unidentified caller asked. I looked around. Nothing seemed out of order. “No,” I sa...

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