PIKEVILLE -- On a clear day, as the popular song goes, you can see forever.
But the difference in what a pilot sees and what an air traffic controller sees can sometimes be vastly different.
So the two factions got together on Saturday morning at the Wayne Executive Jetport to "show them all the stuff that they control," said Bill "Boo-Boo" Miller, a retired Air Force pilot and part of the Goldsboro Wayne Aviation Association.
"We talk every day with the air traffic controllers (on base)," Miller said. "It's not easy flying around. Those guys do a great job of making sure we'll safe.
"For the past three years we have been saying we appreciate what they do -- they're some of the finest up and down the east coast."
This marked the third year the local pilots invited air traffic controllers from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base out to see more of the aviation side.
"We give them a little perspective, about what it's like to be in the pilot seat," Miller said.
He and Jamison "Flash" Baysden coordinated the effort, which included two dozen airplanes taking up nearly four dozen controllers and their family members as part of the appreciation effort.
Basically, every three or four minutes a plane would take off and embark on a 45-minute junket.
"We show them all the stuff that they control," Miller said. "We fly to Kinston, fly by the Seymour Johnson tower where they work, so they can see what we do and where they work, and from Seymour Johnson to Johnston County and then come back."
The precursor to the day happened about a month ago, said Greg Ricker, a local pilot who participated in Saturday's event.
"We went and toured their facilities," he said. "So they showed us what they see from a radar perspective and tower perspective.
"We wanted to show them the reciprocal of that -- we're on the other end. So when they ask us to do something and we tell them we're unable, now they'll know why, because there are so many other things going on."
Ricker, who has 15 years experience flying, took up one of the air traffic controllers in his Beechcraft.
"These guys have never been in a general aviation airplane and so they were amazed at how busy the cockpit is," he said. "Asking them to spot Johnston County Airport and Wayne County Airport, (he) couldn't find it. Even when I told him I knew where it was, he couldn't find it."
To demonstrate the point further, Ricker said he let his passenger talk on the radio and even take the controls.
"You've gotta pay attention to traffic, you've gotta pay attention to a lot of things," Ward said. "He said, 'There's an awful lot going on in here.' And I said, 'Now you see what we have.' This helps them understand when they tell us something to do, we're juggling a lot of balls."
Zachary Tolson, an air traffic controller for three years, said that compared to what pilots see out in the wild blue yonder, controllers are sitting in front of a flatscreen.
The exercise proved to be eye-opening, he said.
"I think as a controller, we don't really get to see it from the pilot's perspective," he said. "There were a lot of things, (the pilot) saw them and we didn't."
Forrest Ward, a pilot from the Norfolk, Virginia, area, has flown all around the world.
"If you look under raceagainstpolio.com, that's the website for the around-the-world flight I did in 2011," he said. "So I got to talk to controllers all over the world, and the U.S. and Canada have the best controllers in the world. They're very, very good. And they're good at handling things that are abnormal."
Payton Rossi, an air traffic controller for two and one-half years, said the plane ride provided a different perspective.
"I really don't think as air traffic controllers we understand how much they have to do in the aircraft and how different it is just from up above," she said. "You know, you think things would be easier to see but it's just, what am I looking at? What am I looking for?"
She enjoyed the experience, she said, as did Tolson, and both agreed they received some good takeaways.
"I think I'll be more understanding because air traffic controllers, they have a lot of stuff to do in the aircraft, things aren't as easy to see up in the sky, so just have a little bit more understanding, for sure," Rossi said.
"I think we're able to provide better service to pilots," said Tolson. "We're able to see what they see. When we're working and we get busy, we can put more time and effort to make sure their lives are safe, too."