I realized how much I love this job when I walked my final time out to Runway 18 to help wave off departures from the 2015 Airventure fly-in at Oshkosh.  In an abundance of caution, there were more air traffic controllers scheduled to work than was necessary for today.  Just in case of bad weather or a late closure, we are all prepared to work hard this very last day.  As it happened, the weather this morning was perfect, so a bulk of the visitors who flew in for this year’s show had already departed prior to the 1 p.m. airshow.

When presented with the opportunity to skip my last hour or two of work, a fierce pride welled up in me and an urgent hunger for “one more round” of airplanes filled my spirit.  I could not stand to walk away from this, my last year of Oshkosh, without seeing just a FEW more airplanes.  I simply could NOT walk off the airport grounds without one more sip at the elixir that I only find here.

Slip the surly bonds of earth, indeed. 

My heart flew with them this afternoon.  The Cessna Caravan on floats, bound for a lake landing somewhere and a new adventure.  The Maule, flying back east.  A Piper Cherokee, when asked, said he was bound for Uplands, CA, (CCB) an 18 hour flight, he said.  A Kodiak, winging his way back home. 

I aver to you that the sight of a dozen airplanes off the end of the runway, all clawing for cooler air while homeward-bound, is one of my many cherished, indelible images I keep from this gift of employment.

I say I am honored (but MANY people say that about their work), I say I am humbled (but often people say that right before they brag), I say I am lucky, blessed, gifted (but those words, too, are over-used).

I tell you I am changed.

Yes, Elphaba, for the better.  I have been changed for good.

I willingly ceded the microphone to those who hadn’t gotten a chance this week.  I happily walked out to the runway so others could ride with the equipment.  I have never risen higher than plain old controller here at this show, but I returned to my roots as “last air traffic controller” next to the runway with a purity of spirit that we rarely get to feel anymore in our job.

One hour.  That is all they needed us for.  I am certain they could have managed without me and my other team member running another set of orange batons.  I am also certain I could not have managed to walk away without one last, hour-long grin at all the families in airplanes leaving the earth.

I commit to five more months (retirement beckons 12/31/15) of focused air traffic control service back at my home facility – Wichita ATCT.  I will stay sharp and teach the next generation of workers and provide the best, cheeriest, most professional air traffic controlling I know how.  But all that is epilogue to my career as a controller.

Today – I end a chapter.  The kind where a reader gently sets the book down and simply absorbs the new reality that has come into being after a story well told.

Thank YOU, Oshkosh… Thank YOU.

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