From left: National Air Traffic Controllers Association executive vice president Trish Gilbert, controller Scott Allen, F-16 pilot Kurt Tek, NATCA Western Pacific Region vice president Joel Ortiz and NATCA president Paul Rinaldi.

An air-traffic controller whose quick thinking helped prevent a crash and possibly saved lives at Tucson International Airport has been recognized for his effort.

Scott Allen recently received the Archie League Medal of Safety Award, the highest honor from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, for his work during the incident last year.

On Nov. 9, 2017, Allen was working at TIA trying to maintain mixed-aircraft traffic using a shortened runway and a runway crossing during a period of construction that created uncommon, and sometimes confusing, situations.

In the incident, a private plane crossed the path of one of four F-16s cleared to land on a shortened runway.

Allen anticipated that the private aircraft was not going to stop in time and warned the pilot of the second F-16 just in time to enable him to pull up and avoid a crash.

A video of the incident shows nothing but sky and a clear runway as the F-16 descends. Immediately after Allen’s warning, the fighter jet shoots up.

At the award ceremony, the pilot recalled how Allen’s command prompted an instant response to pull up.

Officials say the planes missed each other by as little as 20 feet.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

“The guys that were on my left and right, helping me get through ... had they not been there, things wouldn’t have been as effective as it was,” Allen said this week.

Allen also said the F-16 pilot was instrumental in making sure the outcome turned out safely.

“Had he hesitated at all, we would’ve had a different ending to this story.

“I think I’ve always been a cautious controller, but I’m at a whole other level now,” Allen said.

“I don’t mind delaying someone if we have to just to make sure things are a little bit safer.”

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.