Air Traffic Control with Terminal Controller Mark Schad

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An air traffic controller gave me a number to copy the other day. And it was a good thing.

I spent a little time this week on the phone with Mark Schad, who is a terminal area controller for the area surrounding Lambert-St.Louis International Airport. 13 million passengers went through the airport in 2004. Besides being the airport featured in Planes, Trains & Automobiles and a Seinfeld episode, it has 25 separately-charted approaches, including simultaneous close parallels. And that doesn’t include all the satellite airports for which St. Louis approach provides approach and departure control. More than enough for any controller or pilot to shake a stick at.

Mark is also a pilot with enough ratings to have to get a separate bag for his logbook, and his perspective as both a provider and a customer of the air traffic control system is invaluable.

I called Mark at the control facility this week and we spent some time demystifying the men and women at the scopes and talking about what it’s like at a workstation, how best to interact with a controller, what happens in an emergency, and lots of other good pilot talk. So, if you’ve copied your ATIS (and, for the love of Pete, copy your ATIS when you’re in Mark’s airspace!), let’s go to the interview.

About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.


  1. This interview with Mark was fantastic! To hear the honest and personal perspective of a controller was interesting, but to hear his passion to serve the aviator was amazing! What a comfort to know that ATC isn’t there to catch you do something wrong, but to be a part of making sure everything goes right from start-up to shut-down. This podcast is a keeper.

    Calgary, Alberta

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