During 1945-6 I was assigned to an Air Traffic Control Tower at a Naval Air Training facility where squadrons were trained in carrier landings on the field. In time they flew
When operations ended, an entire squadron was enroute to the airfield at the same time. Generally they would call in and the tower operator would assign them into the landing pattern. Five to 10 planes could be in the pattern at the same time, depending on how it was arranged. It's like 5 to 10 stations on a HF net, except you seldom hear an HF station say his fuel is running out and he needs to land SOON!
At that field there was only ONE operator on the microphone for landing operations, although there were three others on duty with support tasks. It was very much like the HF radio net control operator.
On one particular day the mike operator was a regular Navy Chief Petty Officer with 12 years of service in another field. He had recently graduated from the FAA Air Traffic Controller training school and was on his first ever shift. That day there were TWO squadrons returning when one of the first planes to land had a malfunction that temporarily closed the airfield. At that moment the planes were strung out like a string several miles long in route to the field and were requesting inbound instructions and low on fuel. School can teach a lot of things, but a situation like he was facing was not one of them.
Finally, in complete frustration he turned and handed me the microphone and walked out of the tower. He couldn't handle the stress and could not think his way to a solution.
Can you imagine a radio net control operator in the same conditions, turning and handing the mike to you? Multiple frantic calls and no organized, calming response and he/she can't reason out the solution. So what do you do?
In a commanding, but soothing voice, I altered the LANDING pattern into a HOLDING Pattern over the field at 500 foot intervals. When that was full, I stacked them over a nearby emergency field (like using a subnet on radio). As each plane was stacked, its ID went on a control sheet (a paper tablet) to keep track of who was where. When authority to place them at other fields was obtained, the situation was resolved. Incidentally, we never saw that school-trained Chief again, ever.
Readers with HF radio net control operator experience know the pressure of multiple stations trying to reach net control. No matter how ordered a controlled net may be, in emergencies the situation can reach one of voices clamoring for attention. Somewhere in our experiences it is possible to develop the capacity to hear and sort multiple radio transmissions and capture them in an ordered sequence. You seem to know who should be the first to be 'picked up' even if that voice is five or six levels deep and overlaid with static or interference.
Such ability is a prime talent for a net control operator. I have noted it fairly often in those with DX radio experience, especially CW. Somehow it translates into a talent with voice radio as well. Perhaps it is tonal discrimination honed by listening to that one signal in a pile of many with varying tones.