WASHINGTON (WJZ)—An air traffic controller admits he was sleeping as two planes tried to land at nearby Reagan National airport. The FAA is now looking to make sweeping changes.
Kelly McPherson explains what’s being done.
The FAA is now reviewing all air traffic control schedules, hoping to learn from this potentially dangerous situation.
Just after midnight Wednesday at Reagan National Airport in D.C., two planes landed without any communication with the air traffic controller. The one person working didn’t respond to pilots or other air traffic controllers:
“American 1012 called couple times on a landline and tried to call on a commercial line and there was no answer.”
“I fly every day, almost every day. I need the air traffic controllers to be awake,” said Jamie Washington, frequent flyer.
The controller in question is a supervisor with a clean record for more than 20 years who says he fell asleep working his fourth consecutive overnight shift; that’s working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“I appreciate that people can be tired, but that feels like a regular shift and that was two hours in,” Washington said.
Some wonder why no one else was in the tower to either wake up the controller or take over.
“I know that flights slow down overnight there in that airport. They need to have more than one person,” Susan Davis said.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says there are 30 towers nationwide with one overnight shift worker.
The association says a deadly 2006 crash in Lexington, Kentucky is an example of what can happen with only one person in the tower.
BWI-Marshall airport already has two overnight workers.
After this incident, the FAA has demanded Reagan airport add a second person.
“As a professional pilot for more than 25 years, I am outraged by this and we have an investigation and we will get to the bottom of this. I wanna know why this happened,” said Randy Babbitt, FAA administrator.
The Air Traffic Control Association says its contract has language that forbids solo workers. The nearest tower that still has that overnight policy is in Richmond.
None of the 165 people on board the two planes was injured.
The controller has been suspended.