Citizen LAX



“I love the challenge and the fact that you never see the same things happening,” says Los Angeles Tower District Manager Sherry Avery. “When you think you’ve seen it all in 35 years, there is always a surprise. That keeps it interesting. I enjoy trying to do the best job I can for the users of the airport and those who work for me — making things work for people and for airplanes.”

A By Amy Sciarretto s the Los Angeles Tower District Manager, which is sort of like how Sears or Home Depot have district supervisors, the LAX-based Avery is responsible for LAX and eight other towers, including Burbank, Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, El Monte, Whiteman, Camarillo, and Oxnard. Her job is “to keep things safe and efficient,” the good-natured and humorous Avery said. “I am thinking of passengers. The ultimate user of LAX Airport with regard to the airlines is the passengers. That is who I have in mind, so they don’t have to worry about flying. I do everything I can on my end to make sure we work efficiently and build a team of controllers and supervisors helping one another to get planes out safely and as quickly as possible. I try to be the best leader I can for all the towers.”

Avery also monitors operations but in general says, “I fly a desk, as opposed to being up in the operational area of the tower. I am doing administrative tasks, on the phone (including regular teleconferences), meeting with employees, pilots, technicians, Los Angeles World Airports people, and reading tons of email.” She is quick to point out that operations within the tower cab are nothing like the movie Pushing Tin, which was rife with chaos. “You’d be surprised by how calm and orderly the environment is — no screaming and throwing chairs like in that movie, which provided great entertainment. It’s like a choreographed production, with all the airplanes and helicopters being taken care of as they go to different areas, and as emergencies pop up from time to time.”

Avery was bitten by the aviation bug in the 1970’s, “when dinosaurs roamed the runways,” she joked. “I lived in San Diego and my husband at the time was a medical intern. One of the other interns was taking flying lessons at Gillespie Airport nearby and asked us if we wanted to sit in the back of a four-seater airplane while he took a lesson. From then on, we both were hooked and eventually got our pilot licenses!” She then became curious about life on “the other side of the microphone.” She visited the control tower at Gillespie and “I was so impressed with the controllers — they were ‘too cool for school,’ so professional and calm.” She took the federal civil service test and the rest was history. She got a job at Santa Monica Tower in 1974 and has been working in the Southern California airport system since then.

So whether you are a consummate traveler or a casual one, when you fly into LAX or the airports surrounding it, Sherry Avery is working to make sure you and your plane are in good hands!

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