By Maria Jose Subiria
The federal technical support necessary to maintain operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's control tower is in the hands of a man who said he longed, as a child, to know what makes things work.
For the past 36 years, Garland Raiford has worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, and since October 2006, he's been at Hartsfield-Jackson. He manages the three System Support Centers at Hartsfield-Jackson that are essential for air-traffic controllers to guide traffic in the air.
"Every day has unique challenges, and it is gratifying to be part of an agency that touches the lives of so many people on a daily basis," Raiford said.
"All positions where people touch equipment can affect the flying public," he said. "We are working under the mandate that we don't want to interrupt the services of the traveling public."
Born in Detroit, Mich., Raiford's passion for technical matters was developed during a science class in elementary school, he said. He later attended Cass Technical High School, and there, was required to enroll in extra college-level science and math courses, he said. In order to be admitted into the school, Raiford had to be recommended by his middle school teachers, and undergo an interview process, he said.
"It was a predecessor of what people call a magnet school," he said.
After graduating from high school in 1967, Raiford entered the U.S. Air Force in 1968, and worked as an electronics technician until 1972, he said. Following his service in the Air Force, he worked a nine-month stint at Chrysler Defense Engineering in Detroit, and was later hired by the FAA in 1973, he said. While working at the FAA, he attended Mott Community College, in Flint, Mich. While pursuing his degree, he said he interned at Bishop International Airport in Flint, as an electronics technician. He graduated from Mott Community College in 1977, with a degree in math and science, he said.
Raiford said he spent two years on assignment with the FAA in San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning in 1978, and was transferred to Atlanta in 1980. He worked with the FAA in different locations, around Atlanta, until he began working at Hartsfield-Jackson in October of 2006, he said.
His FAA assignments have included work as an electronics project manager, systems maintenance engineer and supervisory engineer.
"All of these provided experience, and background, that allow me to manage the dynamic situations that are presented to me each day," said Raiford.
The three System Support Centers he handles are the Navigation and Communications unit, the Environmental unit and the Radar unit. He has a staff of 36 supervisors and specialists.
The Navigation and Communications unit maintains the instrument landing system, and all communication-related equipment, said Raiford. The Environmental unit is responsible for heating, air, power units and engine generator equipment. In addition, the Radar unit makes sure that the four radar systems that service Atlanta's airport are operating correctly.
Raiford said he looks forward to training the next generation of specialists for the coming changes in aviation transportation.
"I've always wanted to give people opportunities, and make them develop," he said. "You've got to like people, and want to see them excel. This is all I know. This is what I love to do."