A D.C. State of Mind Controllers overseeing the complex and highly secured airspace of Washington, D.C., block out distractions a€“ both from mobile devices and from groups of visitors.

Controllers at Washington National Tower (DCA) have the important responsibility of managing flights in airspace over our nation’s capital. With safety and security being of utmost importance, controllers there have learned how to ignore potential distractions and stay on task.

“We are a very high-profile facility and we have tours on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day,” said the tower’s NATCA facility representative, Angela Hudson. “Having additional people in the tower, distractions can pile up very quickly, and we have to tune them out.”

Visitors who don’t know what to expect on their tour of the facility may be pleasantly surprised by the breathtaking scenery from the tower cab. The tower, located in Arlington, Va., overlooks the Potomac River and southwest Washington, D.C. – a picturesque view. This certainly can make it hard for them to leave.

“It’s something we’ve gotten used to here,” Hudson said. “We’re used to the additional voices, but we’re facing forward and doing our job.”

A complicated job that is. Due to the high security of D.C., the tower manages prohibited areas in its airspace where no one can fly. The Pentagon is adjacent to the airport, less than a mile northwest. And DCA has more helicopters using its airspace than most facilities, and they operate with fixed-wing aircraft.

“We’re constantly on our toes making sure we know where everyone is and everyone is accounted for,” Hudson said.

Hudson works closely with the tower’s management to ensure that everyone is on the same page about remaining focused.

The Turn Off Tune In campaign, in its third year, has helped an already highly responsible workforce stay on task by building awareness and education regarding the safety impact of distractions, including cellphones, in the air traffic control environment. One of the byproducts of the campaign is that cellphone charging stations are becoming more common at air traffic facilities across the country to help keep distractions out of the operational environment.

DCA Air Traffic Manager Hilary King loves the fact that when he goes up toward the tower cab, he sees all the cellphones lying on the counter on the charger in the break room.

"Safety is our number one mission, and remaining focused on the operation definitely goes hand in hand with that," King said.

This story has been published jointly by the FAA and NATCA. Learn more about how controllers and managers are eliminating distractions by visiting the Turn Off Tune In website.

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