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Paul McElroy's TRACON is the first accurate representation of what the Air Traffic Control environment is really like. As an 18 year ATC veteran, I was immediately drawn into his novel as he precisely described incidents in which TCAS (Traffic Alert/Collision Avoidance System) caused aircraft to climb/descend and put themselves in closer proximity to other aircraft--all in direct confliction with the controller's instructions! Kudos to Mr. McElroy for shining some light on a problem that continues to plague the aviation world to this day. TCAS is a valuable awareness tool for pilots, but allowing a computer to override the judgement and pre-planned actions of an air traffic controller is a subject for serious debate.
McElroy's research into the world of ATC will be evident to all of those who are associated and familiar with aviation. The way that he takes technical situations and explains them in layman's terms through his characters makes for extremely enjoyable reading. He also captures the competitive comraderie found in the radar room as controllers try to one-up each other, trading light hearted insults as a way to vent their frustrations with having to work in a less than perfect system. The "war stories" told by the controllers as they unwind with a beer after work are hilarious. One can only hope they are somewhat embellished, but in the air traffic world you can't be too sure.....
I found this book to be addictive; I didn't want to put it down. After watching the disappointing air traffic movie, "Pushing Tin", it was a pleasure to read an authentic accounting of what goes on at the radar scope. McElroy manages to capture everything perfectly!
I rate this book at 5 stars.
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on July 6, 2000
One of the most difficult responsibilities as a Safety Representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is explaining the intricacies of the Air Traffic Control System to non-controllers. It is a frustrating task. Paul McElroy not only does it well, but he makes it entertaining.
I was overwhelmed by "Tracon". It is such a rare pleasure to find an author that has the skill to explain the truth by using fiction. "Tracon" comes closer to the truth than anything I've ever read about ATC...and I've read them all, fact and fiction.
"Tracon" really is a triumph. From now on, whenever I have people ask me about what it's like to be a controller, I'll have an easy answer; Read "Tracon" and you'll understand. You'll have a good time learning about it too.
And for you controllers out there...Paul McElroy has the flick.
Don Brown
Facility Safety Representative
NATCA-Atlanta Center
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on March 30, 2001
As an FAA'er for 33 years, 8 of them at O'Hare, TRACON is first rate in depicting ATC, and much of FAA, as it really is. While reading it, I was in the driver's seat, seeing clearly the activities and events as they were unfolding, realizing every bit of it could be (or occasionally has been) absolutly true. For you aviators and other controllers out there, this is a must read. For you non-aviation experienced readers it is as equally outstanding as a fictional thriller. The characters are strong and relationships real. You will finish the book not only having been totally entertained, but also having been treated to a very accurate look at the very unfamilar, and frequently very misrepresented, world of air traffic control.
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on November 5, 2000
As one of the 13,000 fired PATCO controllers from 1981, I know a bit about the air traffic control business.
For a piece of fiction, TRACON is probably the most technically-realistic book I have ever read on the subject. It's amazing how Paul could capture the essence of this business so vividly. Combined with plenty of suspense and a tad of romance, this book points out that FAA procurement and management problems which resulted in the 1981 strike continue to exist, today.
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on July 9, 2000
Tracon is a nicely paced, well researched novel with well developed characters that the reader genuinely cares about. The necessary aviation jargon is kept to a minimum and is well explained in the context of the narrative. The author has a very firm grasp of a major issue in U.S. commercial aviation today, namely that the safety of the flying public rests more with the professionals in the cockpits, towers and tracons than with the bureauocrats and bean counters.
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on July 10, 2000
Tracon is technically and emotionally accurate, bringing us into the bizarre world of the air traffic controller (ATC). McElroy hits on issues that we all should be concerned with: outdated methods, strict automation technology, and the safety of the lives who fly. This intriguing and believable story calls attention to some of the shocking possibilities in air travel. The character development is rich, the crash scene is vivid, and the life of the ATC is darkly absorbing. You can tell that McElroy has done his homework. McElroy has created a fascinating addition to the techno-thriller genre.
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on September 15, 2000
When I first heard about the upcoming release of this book, I thought, "oh great, here we go again." Fully convinced that this would be another book depicting air traffic controllers as psychotic, alcoholic, insomniac, chain-smoking, caffeine-addicted, egotistical, socially-inept wingnuts, I had no intentions of ever reading it. On the recommendations of some of my NATCA brothers/sisters, I took a chance and bought the book.
Wow! What a surprise. I feel like I not only KNOW all the characters in this book, I *am* one of them (you guess which)! It is the first technically accurate and well thought out book about the air traffic system. The plot is great, the characters are absolutely's just awesome.
I will be purchasing several copies of this book. I'll buy one copy for each of my relatives who think that an air traffic controller is the person who waves red-tipped flashlights at airplanes to direct them to their parking spaces, and one copy to give to every airline pilot I encounter every time I fly.
I can't wait 'til the movie!
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on March 13, 2001
As an air traffic controller who has worked in a Tracon for the last 12 years I find this book to be the most realistic portrayal of the business that I have ever read. This man has done his homework!! I could not find a single fault in his technological account of ATC! Reading the book during my breaks at work was like being in two dimensions. It was as if he was sitting in the room with me as I worked. He got it right from the inane comments to the adrenaline rush of an arrival push!!
I'll be pushing this book on all my family and friends who just can't seem to understand what it is that I do all day. This book put the movie "Pushing Tin" to shame!!
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on August 28, 2001
If you're in aviation or air traffic control, you quickly get tired of all the made-up jargon and 'fake' ATC scenarios...what is a Tower Aray anyway? As a former air traffic controller for 16 years and then one who went on to build ATC simulators for another seven, I found the book hard to put down. One of the places we built tower and radar simulators for was Chicago, and I can tell you Paul hit the mark with the personalities, aviation and ATC scenarios. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in becomming an air traffic controller, any who have been one, or just the average aviation enthusiast.
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on November 20, 2000
While visiting my daughter, who is an ATC, I picked up her copy of the book just to pass some time. I literally took that book to bed with me that night, I had to read it through. I think that what made this book, aside from the gripping novel part of it, was that the life of an ATC was explained in words that we uninformed could relate to and understand. Knowing some of the stresses on these people, I can only imagine what the added stress of having the system fail can do to them. Now I need to go find some of this author's other books. When can we look for the movie?
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