FAA staff spot
approaching aircraft at the Fisk VFR Approach Control, west of
Oshkosh. Ray Thyfault (far right) is one of two Operations
Supervisors at Fisk Control. Photo by David Sakrison
you fly VFR into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, your first point of contact
with Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a small group of controllers
perched on a grassy hillside a few air miles southwest of Wittman
Field. At Fisk Control, approach controllers ensure proper spacing
of aircraft and direct each aircraft to a specific active runway.
Control began operation on Friday, July 25, at 6 a.m. and will
continue to operate, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (except during each
afternoon’s air show), every day through Sunday, August 3. At
times, during AirVenture, it will be the busiest ATC approach
control center anywhere in the world.
Thyfault is one of two Operations Supervisors at Fisk Control. He
has been an EAA member for 35 years and an air traffic controller at
the EAA fly-in for 16 years. During the rest of the year, he is a
controller at the Kalamazoo, Michigan, tower. At Fisk, he supervises
four-person teams of controllers. Sixteen such teams rotate during
team works a half-day at Fisk (morning or afternoon). The teams also
rotate through the Oshkosh control tower; the temporary tower at the
Fond du Lac airport, south of Oshkosh; and the Mobile Communications
Workstations (known affectionately to the controllers as "MooCoWs")
abeam each active runway at Wittman Field. At Fisk, each team
consists of a leader and "veteran" (each with at least
three years of ATC experience at AirVenture), a "limited"
with at least two years, and a "rookie" who is an ATC
first-timer at AirVenture.
the AirVenture NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), all aircraft (except
warbirds) coming to Oshkosh under visual flight rules (VFR) begin
their approach over the city of Ripon, about 16 air miles to the
southwest. They follow the Wisconsin & Southern rail line from
Ripon to Fisk, in single file, maintaining one half-mile of
horizontal separation, at 1,800 feet MSL (above mean sea level) and
at a speed of 90 knots. Aircraft that are too fast to maintain 90
knots approach Fisk at 2,300 feet MSL and 135 knots. At Fisk, the
controllers assign each aircraft to an active runway and direct them
to a base leg. On Sunday morning, they were directing aircraft to
follow the railroad to Runway 27 or follow Fisk Road to Runway 36.
says having two runways helps the controllers maintain the half-mile
separation, even when over-eager pilots get bunched up. "Having
an alternate runway takes care of 90 percent of the issues," he
said. The most common "issue" is aircraft spacing.
"There’s a wide range of abilities and anxiety levels among
the pilots flying into AirVenture," he explained, "but
they are all eager to cooperate with us. We couldn’t do this job
without the pilots and their cooperation."
You can visit the
Fisk Control. Take U.S. Highway 44 West to Fisk Road, then head
north about a mile to the controllers’ hilltop perch. "We get
lots of observers out here," say Thybault. "It’s quite a