It’s 11PM and your One True Love is away on a business trip, driving through a small town enroute to the next day’s meeting. The falling snow obscured the deer in the road until she was right upon it, and after hitting the deer her car swerved and smashed into a phone pole.
You can choose who the next voice she hears is. Is it going to be Arthur or Dan?
“Hello Mrs. Praxis? This is Arthur, from OnStar Support. Is everything OK?”
“Sit still just a minute, everything’s going to be fine. Name’s Trooper Dan.”
Arthur is at a remote phone center. He’s got a datalink to the car, and it’s reporting a sudden stop, air bag deployment, and a ground speed of zero. He’s got the GPS coordinates, he’s typing them into Google Earth, and he can “see” where the car is.
Trooper Dan is in the snowy street with her car. He checks her for injury, helps her out of the car, puts her in the back seat of his police cruiser and offers her a blanket.
This is a bit like the relocated approach control vs. the onsite approach control, and the remote virtual tower vs. the onsite OTW (out the window) tower. Although the distinction is often presented as digital vs. analog processes, that’s not the true description of the difference: it’s a matter of virtual vs. physical presence.
The other thing that this example has in common with remote approach controls and virtual towers is the situation: it’s a non-standard operation, at night, in bad weather. I believe that there’s an unused safety margin in our current arrangement during optimal conditions. It’s not waste or excess to be trimmed, it’s just a safety margin that’s not being stressed.
It’s at night, in lousy weather, when the admin offices are closed, after the techs have gone home and when the T-1 cable is acting up – that’s when things that matter happen, and (in general) there’s a lot less safety margin in non-standard operations, at night, in weather.
Do you want somebody that’s physically on the scene, lives in the area and knows it intimately and has relationships with the community? Or do you want somebody that’s got a computer Information Display System, Google Earth, and a list of local phone numbers to call?
I want Trooper Dan.
I want an approach controller at the airport. I want a control tower with windows.
Who did you pick, Arthur or Dan, to be the first voice she hears?