ATCA Annual Team Award for Outstanding Achievement: Formerly the Earl F. Ward Memorial Award

Earl F. Ward was a pioneer airmail and airline pilot who recognized the need for aircraft separation as air traffic increased. Ward joined the United States Naval Air Service in 1917 and became a Marine Pilot. In World War I he served in the only Marine Unit that deployed to Europe. After the war the Post Office organized the first airmail routes in 1918, and Ward was one of the first pilots recruited to fly the mail in 1924.

In 1927 Earl left the Post Office Service and joined the newly organized National Air Transport Service flying the mail between New York and Cleveland. He subsequently went to work for American Airlines in 1929 and became a Management pilot based in Chicago. Earl became concerned that the increase in instrument flight operations in those early days would result in a mid-air collision unless some separation procedures were developed. He came up with the idea of having American’s radio operators exchange traffic information between all AA flights in and out of Chicago. While this afforded a small measure of safety for AA flights, Ward realized that there was a need for all carriers in the area to participate if the procedure was to be truly effective. He wasted no time in seeking and obtaining the cooperation of TWA, United and Eastern in an extension of this venture. Inter-Airline tests of these procedures at Chicago proved successful; but they still provided only for an exchange of traffic information.

It became evident to Ward that it was necessary to take it to the next level by implementing mandatory procedures and rules requiring the adherence to altitudes and routes assigned by a central control group. Ward prepared an interline agreement, the first such document ever, in which American, United, TWA and Eastern Airlines agreed to implement these procedures to prevent collisions. Using the newly developed separation procedures and with the support of the Federal Government, the airlines used their own personnel to set-up enroute air traffic control facilities at Newark, Chicago and Cleveland in 1935. In July 1936, the Bureau of Air Commerce took over the traffic control stations established by the airlines including the employment of most of the people working in these centers. Earl F. Ward was appointed the first Supervisor of Airways Traffic Control in the Bureau of Air Commerce.   

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