Unsung Heroes of the Skies: Montgomery Air Traffic Controllers Save Lives of Dozens of Passengers on PSA Flight

Montgomery air traffic controllers John Leslie and Lee Watson hailed as heroes for guiding plane to safe landing

Montgomery Regional Airport air traffic controllers John Leslie and Lee Watson are unsung heroes in the sky.

“We hope this doesn’t happen, but we’re prepared for when it does,” said Leslie.

In June, this duo guided PSA Airlines flight 5559 to a safe landing. The flight was bound from New Orleans to Washington National Airport. With 65 passengers on board, the plane – similar to this one – had just reached cruising altitude when the crew reported smoke in the cabin.

“I realized that things were kind of compiling on the pilot’s side and the aircraft’s side that were adding up, so really became a sense of urgency,” said Leslie.

The situation grew severe and the pilot declared an emergency landing.

“We’re all trained to work by ourselves and do the best job we can but it’s very important to rely on the knowledge of senior controllers, management, and everybody work together,” said Leslie.

Watson and Leslie worked together to get the plane on course.

“Being task-oriented, and the ability to handle pressure, put your emotions aside, do the job at hand and worry about the rest later,” said Watson, a 25-year aviation veteran.

Both controllers guided the plane to a safe landing at Selma Airport.

“These two guys did a fantastic job,” said John Grablin, Front Line Manager.  “There was very little for me to do but sit there and call the emergency services over in Selma and get the ambulances there.”

Although these controllers remain humble, they take their role in aviation seriously.

“Safety is the number priority and our air space in the United States is the safest in the world and it’s because of our training and the people that we have doing the job,” said Leslie.

Montgomery Regional Airport air traffic controllers oversee approximately 350 take-offs and landings every day.

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