The Air Up There

By Federal Aviation Administration

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A podcast for people who are curious about the wide world of aviation. Join the FAA as we nerd out about the future of flight, drones, and ways to make the National Airspace System safer, smarter, and more efficient.

Episode Date
Miracle in the Air

Imagine you're a passenger on a small plane and your pilot becomes unconscious. What would you do? That was the reality for Darren Harrison when the pilot on his plane went unconscious mid-flight on May 10. Darren had to quickly transition from a passenger to a pilot with absolutely no flying experience.

Take a deep breath as we walk you through that exact experience we005ve dubbed "Miracle in the Air" in the latest episode of our podcast. It was a team effort to land the plane safely, and we caught up with some of the key players.

Tune in to hear from Fort Pierce Tower air traffic controller Chip Flores and supervisor Justin Boyle, who took the initial emergency call from Harrison that day; as well as Palm Beach Air Traffic manager Ryan Warren, Palm Beach controller/Flight Instructor Robert Morgan, and Domestic Event Network manager Joe Heuser, each had a significant role throughout the ordeal.

This episode highlights the very important role of an air traffic controller and related safety professionals. Without their experience and quick thinking, the miracle in the air could have ended differently.

The FAA is seeking diverse applicants to take on the challenging and highly rewarding job of an air traffic controller. The nationwide entry level application window will be open June 24-27 for all eligible U.S. citizens. Share this podcast episode and career opportunity with those in your network.

Jun 24, 2022
Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month is almost over, but our care and concern for the emotional, psychological and social well-being of pilots continues. We receive so many comments on our social media platforms regarding pilots' concerns about mental health. We see you, and in the latest episode of our podcast, we clear the air about misconceptions around mental health and flying.

The FAA continues to make improvements around policies, testing, treatments and approved medication for pilots. Tune in to hear from Dr. Susan Northrup, FAA's Federal Air Surgeon, and learn more about the transparent process pilots can expect during their individual health assessments. You'll also hear from Ellen Brinks, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Aeromedical Chair, who leads ALPA's Pilot Support Program.

It is imperative for pilots to understand that it is okay to ask for help. Seeking help puts them on the right path to getting better so they can continue their passion for flying in the safest way possible.

Share this important episode with pilots in your network. In the words of Jerry Crawford, To most people, the sky is the limit. To those in aviation, the sky is home. We want to make sure pilots get the help they need and deserve so that they can always feel at home.

May 27, 2022
Sustainable Aviation: Earth Day Edition

The FAA is accountable for how aerospace impacts our planet. We join businesses, other governments, and citizens on a mission to "Invest In Our Planet," the theme for Earth Day 2022. We will continue to take bold actions, be innovative in our approaches, and implement solutions equitably.

Just last year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg released the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan, which aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. aviation by 2050. Transportation produces the most emissions, and FAA is committed to doing its part to build a cleaner, quieter and more sustainable aviation system.

In this special Earth Day episode of our podcast, we're talking to experts about sustainable fuels, new technologies, noise reduction and operational efficiency. You'll hear from Jim Hileman, the FAA's Chief Scientific and Technical Officer for the Environment; Greg McDougall, CEO, Harbour Air, Vancouver; and Dave Atwood, Structures and Propulsion Branch Manager, FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center.

Operation Invest In Our Planet is underway. Tune in to learn how we're doing our part.

Apr 22, 2022
Women in Aviation

It's Women's History Month and we're celebrating women in aviation! Before we glide into this episode, can we take a moment to celebrate the amazing women on the FAA podcast team who did all the groundwork to make this episode take flight? *round of applause*

Speaking of gliding and taking flight, the women featured in this episode know all about that and were excited to share their experiences with us. We talked with Lorry Faber, FAA lead test pilot; Marissa and Aerial (how fitting) Colclasure, a mother-daughter glider team; and Shannetta Griffin and Winsome Lenfert, an engineer and a pilot who lead the FAA's Office of Airports.

We celebrate the Bessie Colemans and Amelia Earharts of the world who paved the way in aviation today. This episode features stories of people who paved the way for women, and for everyone, in aviation tomorrow.

Listen in and be inspired. Happy Women's History Month!

Mar 25, 2022
Iditarod from the Air

We've got the inside scoop for one of Alaska's most iconic events — the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race! The Iditarod race is celebrating 50 years, and FAA's podcast team jumped on the opportunity to join the celebration. The FAA is well connected with Iditarod officials who are passionate about all things aviation, and FAA is full of dog lovers, thus making the 50th Iditarod race the perfect topic for an epic episode of The Air Up There podcast.

Are you wondering what the connection is between aviation and Iditarod? Tune in to this episode to find out! We're going behind the scenes with Iditarod Air Force Chief Pilot Ed Kornfield; Musher Richie Diehl, a pilot who has multiple top 10 finishes in the Iditarod; and our very own Mike Holey and Sam McQuillin, members of an FAA Flight Service team who keep flights safe before, during, and after the last team has finished the race in Nome, Alaska.

The Iditarod temperatures are cold, but the topics about all things Iditarod in this episode are hot! Want to learn more after listening to this episode? Check out our blog post "Iditarod from the Air … Up There."

Mar 04, 2022
Give Thanks This Holiday Season

Our holiday wish — give flight attendants chocolate, not problems. In this episode, we provide tips on how to get to your destination safely and on time for the holidays. Maximize your travel experience and enjoy the magic of flight. Get the inside story on why it's so important to follow cabin crew instructions, how to deal with disruptive passengers, and how to prepare for flying with children, and more. Also, learn about what FAA is doing to prepare for major traffic changes during the holiday season and beyond.

You'll hear from: Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, and LaKisha Price, the Air Traffic Manager at FAA's Command Center.

Remember, flight attendants are trained professionals who are on board for your safety. Thank them for their service with good behavior, kind words, and chocolate (as you'll hear in this episode)!

To learn more about safe holiday travel, listen to our previous podcast episode, Travel Safe this Holiday Season.

Nov 23, 2021
Travel Safe this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us! Are your travel plans underway? Make sure safety is at the top of your itinerary. In this episode, we explore safety precautions you should take when you fly, as well as the dos and don'ts for packing your bags. If you're thinking about chartering an airplane, we'll help you learn the rules, regulations, and requirements so you can easily identify a safe air charter service. You'll hear from: Jay Sorah, an FAA Hazardous Materials Aviation Safety Specialist; Don Riley, an FAA Safety Inspector; and Ryan Waguespack, Senior Vice President of Aircraft Management and Air Charter Services for the National Air Transportation Association.

To learn more, visit FAA's Safe Air Charter Operations and PackSafe for Passengers pages.

Nov 12, 2021
Drones Revolutionize Wildland Firefighting

The use of drones for fighting wildfires is a "hot" topic, with more than 6 million acres of forest burned this year. When they are used by emergency responders they have proven to help suppress and contain massive blazes, and save lives on the ground and in the air.

Drones have revolutionized wildland firefighting, and can come equipped with infrared cameras and ignition payloads for wildfire control. The FAA works with federal and state agencies to find ways to support firefighting efforts, including approving hundreds of emergency airspace authorizations to fly drones.

Tune in as we discuss various drone initiatives and programs, and their role in redefining aviation operations for wildfires. You'll hear from Mike Sheldon, an air traffic security expert for FAA, Dirk Giles, the Forest Service's drone program manager, and Pete York, a CAL FIRE captain.

Read our latest blog "Drones Revolutionize Wildland Firefighting." If you're interested in more stories on drones and public safety, check out our episode from Season 1 titled Drones for Good.

Oct 28, 2021
How to Become an Aviation Safety Inspector

If you're interested in a career in aviation but not quite sure where you want to land, your future as an Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) (PDF) might take flight after this episode!

Today, we're learning all about ASIs and their critical role in maintaining safe skies. ASIs administer, investigate and enforce safety regulations and standards for the production, operation, maintenance and modification of all aircraft.

You'll hear from: Patricia Mathes, the new national FAA Safety Team manager in the General Aviation and Commercial Division, and Shawn Toth, an ASI working in Anchorage, Alaska. Listen as they welcome you to the world of Aviation Safety Inspectors.

For more information about aviation careers, visit our careers page. Or, if you're curious about other types of careers at FAA, visit our jobs page.

Oct 01, 2021
Reducing Aviation Noise and Emissions

Climate change impacts the world we live in today as well as future generations. As with other transportation sectors, aviation plays a role in sustainability. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is rolling out Phase III of its Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) Program, working with stakeholders to decrease aviation's effects on climate change. Among other things, Phase III of the CLEEN Program introduces new environmental goals, including reducing noise and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Tune in to this podcast episode where we sit down with Kevin Welsh, FAA's Executive Director of the Office of Environment & Energy, and David Hyde, former Director of Environmental Policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, to discuss what CLEEN is, what success looks like, and what is exciting about this new phase.

Sep 17, 2021
How to Become a Pilot

Welcome to our third installment of the summer career series! In this episode, we're learning about pilots, and the work they do to maintain safety while flying. Pilots can be found in a variety of different locations and roles: flight decks, at controls, transporting passengers and cargo, or even flying drones. Interested? Aviation might be the career for you! You'll hear from: Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz, the author of Latinas in Aviation; Dawne Barrett, the leader of the operations supervisor workshop for FAA; and Captain Jill Mills, the Assistant Chief Pilot of United Airlines.

For more information about aviation careers, visit our careers page. Or, if you're curious about other types of careers at FAA, visit our jobs page.

Sep 03, 2021
How to Become a Technician

Have you ever wanted to start a career in aviation? Well, becoming an aviation technician might be the right path for you! In this week's episode, we're exploring what it means to be a technician for FAA and in the aviation industry.

Technicians have the skills and hands-on training to maintain and repair a wide array of equipment and technology that pilots and controllers rely on for navigation and communication, flight-tracking technology, runway lights and much more. The skills of a technician are absolutely necessary to ensure that all air travelers arrive at their destinations safely and on time.

You'll hear from FAA's Cody Johnson, a district facilities group manager for Technical Operations; Jim Woodruff, who is working to ensure technicians have the proper training; and Krista Jeppsen, who oversees 14 technicians at King Salmon System Support Center in Alaska. Learn more about Airway Transportation Systems Specialists.

Aug 20, 2021
How to Become an Air Traffic Controller

Welcome to the first installment of our summer career series! We're answering your questions and doing a deep dive into careers in aerospace and the steps you can take to get started in the field. Today's episode is one of our most requested topics — how to become an air traffic controller as an entry-level applicant. FAA experts will walk you through everything from the application process to training at the FAA Academy and certification.

For more information about air traffic control jobs at FAA, visit our careers page. Or, if you're curious about other types of careers at FAA, visit our jobs page.

Jul 23, 2021
Equity in Aerospace

Aviation is for everyone, and the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) is working to ensure that everyone feels included. During the DAC's last meeting, FAA requested that they explore a potential language change. For example, the technical term for drones is unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS. Unmanned. Now the committee is looking at ways to make that terminology gender-inclusive, because really, so long as a person is flying safely and following the rules, it doesn't matter what their gender is.

In this episode, we're exploring what an equitable aerospace industry looks like. You'll hear from FAA Deputy Administrator Brad Mims, the FAA's Vice President for System Operations Services Ginny Boyle, and Alina George from the FAA's drone office.

You can learn more about the DAC's use of inclusive language in our latest blog post.

Jun 23, 2021
“We're putting it in the trees.”

On a flight back to his home airport in a Cherokee 140, pilot Truman O'Brien ran into engine trouble. FAA air traffic controllers at the Portland, Oregon TRACON were in close communication with the pilot, offering him multiple landing options and working hard to help guide him to safety. But, flying at 8,000 feet, the aircraft lost altitude quickly. Even with top-notch air traffic control services, O'Brien had no choice but to make an emergency landing in the trees, deep in the forest of southwest Washington.

In this episode, we hear from the people on both ends of the transmission — Krissy Lewandowski, Portland TRACON Controller; Patrick Elmore, Portland TRACON Operations Supervisor; and the pilot himself. It's a story that underscores why clear pilot-controller communication is so critical.

The FAA's WINGS program has resources to help general aviation pilots stay proficient and enjoy stress-free flying. You can learn more about WINGS at

Jun 18, 2021
Building a Career with Drones

In Season 2, Episode 11, we spoke with FAA drone expert Danielle Corbett to gain a better understanding of how drone pilots can fly safely and in line with FAA rules. That episode is packed with lots of information that will help you to be a great drone pilot!

In today's episode, we're talking about drone entrepreneurship. Drones can be used for a variety of business purposes, like photography, to survey agriculture, to conduct building inspections and a variety of other important functions. You'll hear first-hand from a drone entrepreneur, Eno Umoh, co-founder of the Global Air Drone Academy, an organization working hard to help young people realize the entrepreneurial benefits of drone piloting. Eno gives us insight into the endless possibilities in the drone world, and why it is so important that we're teaching future generation of drone pilots how to fly safely as they consider those opportunities.

Want to know more about drone piloting, but don't know who to ask? Feel free to contact the UAS Support Center, where they'll answer all of your burning drone questions. The FAA has countless resources, as well as drone specific social media accounts for the drone community on Facebook and Twitter.

Bonus tip: The FAA recently implemented two new rules, Operations Over People and Part 107.

Disclaimer: Reference in this podcast to any specific commercial products, process, service, manufacturer, company, or trademark does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. government, DOT, or FAA. As an agency of the U.S. government, the FAA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any specific product or service.

Jun 04, 2021
Lose the Laser

Last year, there were nearly 7,000 reported laser strikes against pilots — and those are just the ones that were reported. In fact, laser strikes increased during 2020 despite a lower number of air traffic operations. Laser lights can pose a serious safety risk to pilots flying aircraft, and pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime.

Learn what a laser strike is, what impact they have on pilots, and how FAA partners with law enforcement to stop them on this episode of The Air Up There.

Find out more about laser strikes and read this blog post for tips on using a laser safely. Want to report a laser strike?

May 28, 2021
I Bought a Drone. Now What?

Although our host, Dominique Gebru, doesn't know much about drones, she really wants to get one! Lucky for her, FAA has everything she needs to become a certified drone pilot. In this episode, she speaks with an FAA drone expert, Danielle Corbett, and learns the dos and don'ts of drone flying. Don't have access to your own personal FAA Drone Expert? Feel free to contact the UAS Support Center, where they'll answer all of your burning drone questions. The FAA has countless resources that you can access online, as well as drone-specific social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. The FAA has recently implemented two new rules: Operations Over People and Part 107, and you can learn more here.

May 14, 2021
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson Talks Pilot-to-Pilot with @PlaneGirl

The FAA estimates that there are 664,565 pilots that hold active FAA certificates as of December 31, 2019. Of that number, an estimated 52,740 are women. That's just shy of 8%. Eight! Pretty shocking, and it's clear there's a lot of work to be done to bring greater gender equity to the field.

But among that 8%, there are a number of bright spots, like “Plane Girl” Stevie Triesenberg, a young aviator and content creator. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson talks pilot-to-pilot with Stevie in this episode, about her start in aviation and how she's inspiring the next generation through social media.

You can also watch this interview on our YouTube channel, and follow Stevie on Instagram.

Apr 30, 2021
“Get vaxed, wear a mask, and come fly with us.”

Flight attendants serve a critical safety function in the cabin (no, they aren't just there to hand out snacks). But after years of decline, incidents of unruly passengers spiked in 2018 and from 2020–2021, they've hit record numbers — largely because passengers fail to listen to flight attendant directions about the new mask policy. In this episode we spoke with Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, about what travel has been like during the COVID-19 pandemic and why she's proud to be a flight attendant.

Read our blog post about being a good airline passenger.

Apr 23, 2021
Convective Weather and How it Could Affect Your Flight

Inclement weather conditions are, by far, the largest cause of flight delays in the United States. In an average year, inclement weather — including convection — is the reason for nearly 70 percent of all delays.

In this episode, we'll hear from two professionals on convective weather, flight delays, and the work that FAA does to get ahead of severe weather and minimize delays.

Apr 16, 2021
Simulators and How They're Making Aviation Safer

Simulators — they're sort of like video games for training, research and skill enhancement. Flight and other types of aviation simulators help pilots, air traffic controllers, drone operators and more to gain proficiency and get certified faster, all in a virtual environment.

In this episode, we'll hear from multiple aviation professionals about the work that they're doing to ensure aviation safety with the use of simulators and virtual reality.

Disclaimer: Reference in this podcast to any specific commercial product, process, service, manufacturer, company, or trademark does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. government, DOT, or FAA. As an agency of the U.S. government, FAA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any specific product or service.

Apr 02, 2021
Meet FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims

In February, the Biden-Harris Administration appointed Bradley Mims to serve as FAA's new Deputy Administrator. In this special mini-episode, Administrator Steve Dickson sits down with his new colleague for a brief conversation about goals for the next few years, including furthering aviation safety, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and ways our agency can address racial and climate justice.

Mr. Mims is no stranger to transportation — he's served in leadership roles at the Department of Transportation and at FAA, in addition to the private sector. Read the Deputy Administrator's bio.

Mar 26, 2021
Dr. Susan Northrup Makes Aviation History

In this special episode, we're celebrating Women's History Month with a remarkable woman who made FAA history this year. In January, Dr. Susan Northrup became the first woman to serve as the FAA's Federal Air Surgeon. She is an accomplished medical professional, a retired Air Force colonel, and a private pilot.

In this episode, our reporter Liz Cory talks with Dr. Northrup about her career journey and her goals as Federal Air Surgeon. You can read more about Dr. Northrup in this recent article she wrote for Safety Briefing Magazine.

Mar 19, 2021
Flora, Fauna, and Flight

Wildlife strikes are on the rise, with birds accounting for about 97 percent of reported strikes. Factors like an increase in passenger traffic, the introduction of much quieter engines on newer planes, and a large increase in wildlife populations have all led to a rise in the probability of wildlife strikes both at airports and in the air.

In this episode, we'll hear from three professionals about the work that they do to help prevent these strikes and keep birds and those aboard aircraft safe.

Mar 12, 2021
Ticket to Space

Space — it's big, it's dark, and there's so much that we don't know about it yet! In this episode, we'll hear from FAA experts what role the agency plays in commercial space transportation, from licensing to launch and reentry.

Feb 26, 2021
Drone Package Delivery

Drone package delivery isn't just something cool that could happen in the future — it's happening now! In this episode of The Air Up There, you'll learn how FAA works with businesses, local governments and researchers to ensure drone package delivery happens safely. You'll also hear from representatives at UPS and Wing about ways they've incorporated drone package delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feb 12, 2021
Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine to its Destination

The COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort is a massive logistical operation possibly unlike anything the nation has seen in modern history. It's all hands on deck, and FAA continues to play an essential role. In this bonus episode, you'll hear directly from the experts managing FAA's role in facilitating the vaccine transportation operation.

The agency's adaptive response includes helping airlines understand how to safely carry larger-than-typical amounts of dry ice — a hazardous material — when needed to ensure vaccine doses stay at appropriate temperatures, prioritizing flights carrying the vaccine, and working quickly to provide guidance to pilots, air traffic controllers, and others who hold FAA medical certificates or medical clearances.

For the latest information about flying during the pandemic, visit

Feb 05, 2021
Inspired: with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson

What would the aviation industry be without trailblazers? Well, frankly, it would not be at all.

In our final podcast episode of the season, you'll hear from Administrator Steve Dickson about the path that led him to aviation. But this isn't your standard interview. The person asking the questions is Malik Sinegal, a young aviator whose story is rather remarkable, too.

Dec 18, 2020
Drones for Good

Drones are the most rapidly evolving form of aircraft, and while recreational pilots fly them for fun or photography, drones can do a lot more. In this episode, we explore some of the many functional roles that drones play right now — from creating maps in the aftermath of a wildfire and measuring wind speed in the center of a hurricane, to monitoring crops. You'll hear from Commander Tom Madigan of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Lieutenant Junior Grade Nicole Chappelle from NOAA's Officer Corps, and James Grimsley, who managed the Choctaw Nation's participation in the FAA's UAS Integration Pilot Program.

Nov 20, 2020
Wildfires and Aviation

Wildfires have become more intense over the past few years, and we're getting used to seeing firefighting aircraft in action. But, that's only part of our story. Aircraft are also used to direct ground operations, protect firefighters and provide a birds-eye view of the action. In this episode, we'll meet the pilots and ground crews who give us an inside look at how aircraft help fight wildfires.

In this episode, you'll hear from Joshua Nettles, Tactical Air Operations Division Chief for CAL FIRE, and Josh Mathiesen, Interagency Fire Chief for Six Rivers National Forest and Redwood National Park, U.S. Forest Service.

Oct 21, 2020
How Air Traffic Works

The FAA keeps 5,000 airplanes on average moving safely through the sky every hour. How is this possible? Listen to hear it from our experts.

In this episode, you will learn how the puzzle pieces fit together in a cross-country flight — from takeoff to cruising altitude and back down — and how an orchestra of more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, in unison with pilots and airport personnel, creates a symphony of flights moving safely and efficiently across the nation while faced with a variety of constraints like weather, construction and heavy traffic areas. You'll also hear about the critical role of airway transportation specialists, our Tech Ops personnel, who keep thousands of pieces of critical FAA equipment tuned up for controllers and pilots to use in this complex dance.

Sep 25, 2020
General Aviation and COVID-19

The COVID-19 public health emergency has affected nearly every industry, and companies are trying to navigate the new normal of operating. General aviation is no exception. New businesses have cropped up to meet the demand for alternative forms of transportation. Innovations in pilot training have moved at lightning speed to provide quality, technical training solutions. Listen now to hear how private pilots are keeping their skills sharp, how the industry is working to accommodate new business, and how everyone is working to make sure the skies remain safe.

In this episode, you'll hear from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's (AOPA) Tom Haines, Jens Hennig of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Aviation International News' Matt Thurber, and Julie Boatman of Flying Magazine.

Sep 04, 2020
Air Traffic Amid a Public Health Emergency

The COVID-19 public health emergency has dramatically reduced the number of passengers flying in our airspace, but the National Airspace System remains a critical part of our nation's response. From keeping flights carrying PPE on track to mitigating risk inside the tower cab, here's how the FAA's air traffic control team keeps the system running. Hear from Air Traffic Controllers and supervisors from Bedford, MA, Memphis, TN, and others across the system as they discuss how the public health emergency affected them at work and at home.

Aug 18, 2020
Operation Supplies Over Skies

When the COVID-19 public health emergency cancelled everything, 16-year-old student pilot TJ Kim started flying PPE and other medical supplies to rural hospitals in his state of Virginia. He's calling it Operation SOS: Supplies Over Skies. We'll talk with TJ about why he started "Operation SOS," his flight instructor, a representative from EAA's Young Eagles program and an FAA STEM AVSED outreach representative about why they support young people's interest in aviation.

Aug 18, 2020