Air traffic controller from Manitoulin Island addresses Gore Bay Flying Club

Roger Morrell, right, an air traffic controller at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, was the guest speaker at the Gore Bay Flying Club regular meeting last week. Mr. Morrell is from Evansville.

GORDON – Roger Morrell, air traffic controller at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, addressed the Gore Bay Flying Club (GBFC) on September 18. An Island expat, Mr. Morrell returned to Manitoulin as the club’s guest speaker at this month’s meeting accompanied by his father, Norm Morrell.

Born and raised in Evansville, Roger Morrell began his career as an air traffic controller in 1993 at Canada’s busiest airport. The club pilots in attendance were held spellbound by his information and stories. Some of the club’s pilots have flown into Pearson in their light aircraft; others may do so some day. Club instructor Wade Cook flies there routinely in the Manitoulin Transport Cessna Citation jet.

Mr. Morrell quipped, “here’s a little-known fact. Evansville has produced more air traffic controllers per capita (in Canada), with two of us from Evansville. We’ve got Matthew Orford, so a community of 75 people has two controllers in the country.”

Mr. Morrell showed the group many examples of the display screens he works with every day, directing the largest jets in the world, including Air Force One. “Air Force One is always followed by two fighter jets,” noted Mr. Morrell, “and when it comes to Pearson they take over half the airport for as long as they’re there.” But he added that he and the other controllers also take care of many small aircraft, the size of the Gore Bay Flying Club’s Piper Cherokee 140 and other similar planes owned by Club members. “We have them wait in a staging area and when there’s a hole, we bring them in to land.”

Mr. Morrell is an award-winning air traffic controller. Proud dad Norm Morrell recounted that in 2016, son Roger prevented a mid-air collision and earned the award of Air Traffic Controller of the Year. He had prevented a major accident in Hamilton. It was a case of two planes being in the same airspace at the same time. He had actually brought them in to the Hamilton zone, but then looked later and saw that the two planes were too close, and with one being big and one being small, the turbulence from the big plane could have taken the small one out, he explained.

Robby Colwell, manager of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport, invited Roger Morrell to be the Club’s guest speaker, introducing him with a story of his grandfather Colwell helping a young Morrell out as neighbours in Evansville many years ago.

Club president Tim St. Amand expressed appreciation for Mr. Morrell’s presentation on air traffic control in and out of Toronto. 

“It’s certainly something we don’t deal with here in Gore Bay and it’s nice to see we have the support from a local person, being Roger who grew up in Evansville, and coming back to give us a demonstration on what he does in air traffic control. We had a really good round of questions; it was a good conversation and we appreciate being able to attract people back to Manitoulin to give us that instruction,” he said.