Friday, May 2, 2008
Shawn Lockhart and Mike Dyas, Systems Specialists

Shawn on left,
Mike on the right

At the Federal Aviation Administration building in Illinois, two deaf guys, Shawn Lockhart and Mike Dyas work in rotating shifts to keep the facilities humming along. Shawn and Mike both work as an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist. Both men graduated from NTID/RIT with a degree in Electromechanical Technology.

“We provide system support to air traffic controllers,” explained Shawn. “They really depend on our systems to function properly in order to do their jobs.” Mike and Shawn are responsible for keeping the control center “out of the dark.” They check to make sure the primary and secondary systems, including the heating and cooling, alarms, batteries and generators are always in order.

Mike was the first to be hired at the FAA facility. After graduation, he worked at Eastman Kodak in Rochester but soon realized that he wanted to move back home to Illinois. An employment advisor from the Rochester Institute of Technology pointed him in the direction of the F.A.A.

“I left Rochester immediately and started knocking at the door of the F.A.A. Regional Office headquarters for Great Lakes,” said Mike. Mike worked with Linda Ross, who oversaw the disabilities hiring program. Linda suggested that he meet with the administrator at the Aurora office. At first, the administrator was reluctant to meet with Mike.

“After a brief interview, they took me on a tour and the managers were so impressed with me. From there, I was the first deaf person to be hired to work in the control center as an engineer technician,” said Mike.

Shawn started working at the F.A.A. facility four years after Mike was hired. Mike and Shawn don’t often see each other on the job due to the rotation in their shifts, but their shifts occasionally overlap for two hours.

“I love my job and it is challenging,” said Shawn. “People don’t often realize how complex our jobs are. Systems don’t discriminate. It’s all about getting the job done. Deaf or hearing—it doesn’t matter. You just have to have the knowledge and skills to keep the systems running.”

“I love this job because we face so many different, challenging problems each day,” Mike agreed. “We get to tackle the problems, troubleshoot the solutions and repair them as quickly as we can to keep the National Airspace System running.”

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