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After a Safe Landing, a Pilot Gives Thanks

At the University of Illinois Willard Airport, Sept. 14, 2006, "started just like any other day," air-traffic controller David Murphy says. As Murphy tells NPR's Renee Montagne, it was early in his shift when pilot Willard Nickisch found himself in trouble. Nickisch was fighting against his autopilot, which was trying to put his Piper Seneca III into a nosedive. When Nickisch, who was flying alone, contacted air-traffic control for help, Murphy was there.

The Archie League Medal of Safety awards are given out by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to controllers who displayed extraordinary skill in critical situations. Named for the first air-traffic controller, 10 controllers from around the country receive the award in recognition of their "saves." Murphy and Yasemin Parker were recognized this year for their work guiding Nickisch to a safe landing.

"As air-traffic controllers, we put ourselves in the cockpit, and my job is to take the stress off him," Murphy says.

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