Air Traffic Control & California Bob

By Robert Mark on August 19th, 2007

Was it Karma that Bob Richards called me yesterday right after I happen to catch a rerun of John Cusack’s excellent portrayal of an air traffic controller in “Pushing Tin?” Maybe. He called to see if I’d read his new book, which I had to admit I had not.

I’d run into Bob at AirVenture a few weeks ago in Oshkosh where we were both trying to peddle our new books. In just half an hour I remembered something I’d forgotten in the 20 or so years since I’d last seen him.

Bob Richards really likes to talk. And, I probably forgot to mention, his book Secrets from the Tower, was flying off the shelves. I was hoping not to compare his books sales to mine.

I met Bob years ago in Chicago. He was an air traffic controller trainee at Chicago’s Palwaukee Airport having recently escaped from Fullerton Control Tower near LA in search of life.

Everyone thought he looked and acted like a surfer dude so the California Bob name wasn’t much of a stretch.

He stayed with FAA and eventually did what controllers at most of the towers around Chicago and other parts of the nation do at some point in their career … make the decision to see if they can pass muster at the World’s Busiest at Chicago O’Hare.

Bob tried … and succeeded. In fact, California Bob spent 22 years at ORD. Most of us have probably talked to him though we never knew it. 

Right … the Book

Did I tell you this dude was selling a lot of books at Oshkosh?

OK, no sour grapes here, perhaps just a bit of a pre-review.

Secrets from the Tower looks to be a journal of sorts, a collection of stories not simply about how they push airplanes at the world’s busiest airport, but an inside look at one of the people and the life he led while he was there (he retired earlier this year).

When I opened the book just before I wrote this blog entry, I went to the section he wrote about an airport we both spent a lot of time at … Chicago Palwaukee (now called Chicago Executive).

California Bob wrote about a lady we both worked for at one time … the stone-faced control tower manager Linda Brown. Her management style was an easy one … act like the guys who’d brought her along in FAA and success would follow. Bob captured her personality perfectly.

That was enough to make me wonder how well he did with the rest of his air traffic control life.I think I’m going to start reading his book this afternoon.

So maybe it was Karma that Bob called me to about this book. Or maybe he’s just a good salesman.

Funny thing Bob Richards said to me though as we walked away from the book store at AirVenture after a tough afternoon of trying to sell books.

I said, “See ya Bob.”

He yells back to me, “Hey Rob. You know our meeting was not just an accident I think.”

Stay tuned.

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3 Responses to “Air Traffic Control & California Bob”

  1. Bill Palmer Says:

    Linda Brown! Ha, ha.
    I remember that name. She used to be a controller at Pontiac Oakland Airport (Pontiac Mich) around 1980. She was nasty then, and that was to the pilots! I worked out of there for a few years.

  2. California Bob and Air Traffic Control - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinon Says:

    [...] is the author of a book – Secrets from the Tower – that we’ve talked about before here at Jetwhine. It’s based on his experiences as a [...]

  3. Bill Guenon Says:

    You mentioned a book you had done…title and subject please…we may be able to trade our books?! Best, /Bill

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