The ATCA Annual Safety Award: Formerly the William A. Parenteau Award

William A. Parenteau was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1915, but was raised on Long Island, N.Y., where he graduated from Public School 32. After attending prep school and during his senior year at Dartmouth College, he told his father he would rather work than study. So, his father sent him to the oil fields in the Southwest where he was a roustabout and worked with a work crew that used dynamite when searching for oil.

In 1941, he went to work for Eastern Airlines at LaGuardia Field in New York where he sold tickets and hauled baggage. It was while he worked at La Guardia that he became interested in air traffic control. In 1942 he joined the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as an air traffic controller after graduating from the Flushing Technical Institute ATC school located at the airport. He worked in the Hartford, Connecticut tower for several months and in 1943 became an assistant controller in the Richmond, Virginia tower.

In 1944 LaGuardia Tower (LGA) was one of the few control towers still operated by the City of New York. Since LaGuardia controllers were not Federal employees, they were not permitted to handle any IFR operations, such as approach control. As a consequence, CAA volunteers were solicited to come to LaGuardia to control the IFR traffic and conduct a live evaluation of a computerized “ADF Approach Control System.” Bill was one of the controllers selected for this evaluation and he contributed to development of early IFR approach procedures that were subsequently implemented throughout the country. When the CAA took over operation of the LaGuardia Tower in 1945, Bill continued to work there and was promoted to Chief of the facility in 1948. He served there with distinction until 1960 when he was appointed FAA Chief of the Idlewild Tower, now Kennedy Tower.

Things were in bad shape at Kennedy Airport, where excessive delays and operational inefficiencies occurred on a daily basis. Bill was highly respected and regarded by his work force, users of the ATC system, and the Regional Office and could quickly solve all kinds of procedural, technical, or management problems which he proceeded to do at Kennedy Airport where he got things under control in short order.

Bill was an articulate, charismatic man who was in his element when he had a microphone in his hand. He was noted for his fabulous on air delivery, leaving no doubt in the minds of pilots who received his transmissions as to who was in charge. Perhaps some of this came from his love of acting which manifested itself in his playing lead roles in many of the drama clubs and theaters throughout the New York area and his appearance in various television shows, among them “Studio One.”

Bill’s strengths were that he was always explicitly clear about what he expected of you, had a knack for choosing top notch supervisors to work for him, always stuck up for the people who worked for him, and no matter how difficult the job, management could depend on him to get it done. He was a charter member of ATCA, worked hard, had a great sense of humor, and tremendous pride in the ATC profession. He was a great role model and a one of a kind individual. William Alfred Parenteau died in 1972 at the Franklin General Hospital, Valley Stream, New York. He was only 57, but before he died he had a great impact on the ATC system and the people who worked for him or were associated with him.

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  • Welcome to the ATCA
  • Welcome to the ATCA