Air traffic controller recognized for safety performance by Nav Canada

Roger Morrell, left, is presented with the Nav Canada “Chairman’s Award for Employee Excellence” in the category of safety, by Nav Canada Chairman Marc Courtois.

TORONTO—Haweater Roger Morrell, an air traffic controller at the Toronto Airport ACC, has received recognition for safety actions in helping to prevent what was potentially a huge loss of life after an incident. Mr. Morrell has received the Chairman’s Award for Employee Excellence in the category of safety from NAV Canada.

“Roger Morrell Air Traffic Controller Toronto ACC was controlling and coordinating a steady flow of traffic at the Hamilton airport when, unexpectedly, a B737 aircraft started a left turn into an extended downwind for the approach, while a parallel aircraft was flying at the same altitude, less than five miles away, on an intersecting heading,” states a Nav Canada release. “With no hint of hesitation, Roger issued a turn-away instruction to the parallel aircraft and then corrected the B737, instructing the pilot to turn right and onto the base leg for final.”

“The immediacy of his reaction suggests something akin to a premonition on Roger’s part,” notes the Nav Can release. “His state of high alert and split-second, decisive reaction helped to avert a potential collision that day. He gives true meaning to ‘safety in the skies’ and is a credit to his specialty, his unit, and his profession.”

Marc Courtois, Nav Canada chairman, said, “our national finalists in the 2016 Chairman’s Awards for Employee Excellence exemplify the superior leadership, dedication and innovation that has helped grow and shape Nav Canada over the last 20 years. These winners have been selected from an impressive field of nominees to receive the company’s highest form of employee recognition. They were nominated by colleagues who were inspired by their exceptional contributions in the areas of safety, people, customer service, performance, resource management, technology and community service.”

“While there is no shortage of hard work among all Nav Canada employees, these finalists have truly excelled,” continued Mr. Courtois. “Their work has made a tremendous difference, whether to their co-workers, to our customers, to the company as a whole or to their communities. On behalf of the board of directors and everyone at Nav Canada, I offer my deepest appreciation and congratulations to this year’s finalists, who we recognize as the latest in a long line of outstanding employees as we celebrate Nav Canada’s 20 year legacy.”

While the Recorder was unable to contact Roger Morrell, despite several attempts for an interview, we were able to talk to his father, Norm Morrell. “Roger was born and raised on Western Manitoulin, went to elementary school at Charles C. McLean in Gore Bay and secondary school at Manitoulin Secondary School. He received his degree in chemistry and math at Laurentian University.”

“When he first decided to get into his profession he wrote an aptitude test for air traffic control to get into Transport Canada school,” said Mr. Morrell. “When he applied he had to finish among the top 24 in Canada.  And of the top 24 about 16 actually graduated.”

“So, Roger took this very intensive course over six months,” said Mr. Morrell. “He said it was much more demanding than anything he had to undergo at college or high school.”

Once Mr. Morrell graduated from air traffic school, he went to work at the North Bay Airport around 1993-1994, for about 10 months, and is one of two students from his school program to make it to Pearson Airport as an air traffic controller.

“Roger was at Pearson for about 6-8 months before becoming a full-fledged independent air traffic controller,” said him father. “He’s been at Pearson Airport ever since and will probably spend the rest of his working life there before he retires in less than four years.”

Mr. Morrell said his son has taught students in air traffic control classes and has graduated several air traffic controllers under his supervision, over the years.

“I think the simplest way to describe being an air traffic controller is that it is one of those jobs where you have to be able to react as quickly as you can think,” said Mr. Morrell. Roger has two children, Nathan and Clare.

Roger is also a good athlete. “A year ago Roger was a member of the air traffic controller hockey team for Canada and the US that competed in a worldwide air traffic controller tournament in Slovenia. He comes home every winter and plays in the big hockey tournament in Providence Bay with the 35ers teams,” said his father.

“Roger is one of those laid back non-assuming guys,” said Mr. Morrell. “He could have been a medical doctor. The local education system certainly helped him. He came through three schools he really liked.”