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Meet: Jim McClenahen

aphoto of Jim

Air Traffic Control Analyst
NASA FutureFlight Central

My Journals

My Chats

Who I Am
I work in the NASA FutureFlight Central facility at NASA-Ames as an Air Traffic Control (ATC) Analyst. NASA FutureFlight Central (http://ffc.arc.nasa.gov) is a Virtual Air Traffic Control Tower Simulator that can reproduce the operation of any airport in the world. This facility will be used to conduct research and test the design of future air traffic and airport technologies that are needed to meet the challenges of air travel in the twenty-first century. What I do is provided the air traffic control knowledge that is required to make the facility act and feel just like a real air traffic control tower and airport operation.

I also support other air traffic control technologies that are being developed here at NASA-Ames such as The Surface Movement Advisor Program (SMA), Aviation Safety Program (AVSP), Airport Approach Zone Camera System (AAZCS), and the Center-Tracon Automation System (CTAS) Program. All of these programs require knowledge in computer science, math and air traffic control. These are exciting programs that will provide technologies that will go a long way in assisting you in your future travels in the National Airspace System and the entire world.

My Career Path
All of my life I have been interested in aviation, and when I was in the Navy I learned to control aircraft using radar to direct flights to different places. After the Navy, I worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) thirty-two and a half years as an air traffic controller, ending that career as the Assistant Air Traffic Manager at San Francisco Tower in 1994 and coming here to NASA-Ames as an ATC analyst. During my FAA career I achieved a degree in Computer Science and earned my private pilot's license.

What I Like About My Job
The excitement of being a part of a team that took the concept or idea of the FutureFlight Central facility and made it real. All of my career as an air traffic controller any new technology was tested at a real airport involving real people that added responsibilities to my job of providing service to the flights. Sometimes the technologies were not as good as the developers indicated, and it caused problems that resulted in loss of service to the flying public. FutureFlight Central will allow these technologies to be developed, tested and operated by real air traffic controllers before they are used at real airport. I love my job. It is a wonderful second career.

When I Was a Child
My favorite subjects in school were math and science. I was always building aircraft models and trying to make them fly. I read every book about aviation that was in my school library and was always drawing pictures of aircraft, especially World War Two airplanes. I had my first airplane ride when I went to work for the FAA and went on to learn how to fly when I came to the Bay area in 1973. When the FAA started introducing computers into the National Airspace System, I studied computer science and learned the technologies that were being developed at that time. As more and more computer programs were introduced I learned how these new systems helped the controllers improve the efficiency of their jobs.

My Advice
Get your education no matter what career you decide to develop. No one is too old to learn. I learn something every day and look forward to each day for that exciting time when I discover something that I don't know. Study English, Math, Science and Languages, knowing these help you develop skills that can be used in any career. Always be willing to work hard and always try your best in everything you do.

My Future Plans
Continue working in the NASA FutureFlight Central facility helping develop and test new airport technologies.

I am married and have three grown children and nine grandchildren ages 16 to 3 years old. I have a great family and we get together often and have lots of fun doing different things. Remember, always do your best and feel good about what you do.


October 18, 2000

November 1, 2000


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