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Traffic Controller Admits He Was Asleep On The Job

WASHINGTON (WJZ) — There’s new fallout from this week’s incident at Reagan National Airport, where an air traffic controller now admits he was asleep on the job while two pilots were trying to land.

Mary Bubala reports a preliminary investigation shows the Reagan controller’s radio went silent for 33 minutes.

The FAA has now suspended him from his job.

“As a professional pilot for more than 25 years I am outraged by this. We have an investigation and we will get to the bottom of this.  I want to know why this happened,” said Randy Babbitt, FAA administrator.

So does Congressman Andy Harris, a member of the House Transportation Committee, which is planning a formal review.

“We have to make sure that someone in the middle of night who is doing an important job is awake,” he said.

 The air traffic controller, a 20-year veteran with a clean record, admitted he fell asleep sometime just after 11:55 p.m.

At 12:04 a.m. an American Airlines jet couldn’t reach him and was forced to abort its approach.  The jet reached out instead to a regional controller 40 miles away who tried to call the tower.

“American 1012 called a couple times on a landline, and then tried to call on a commercial line, but there was no answer,” said a recording.

The American pilots had to land essentially unassisted. So did a United flight 15 minutes later, which was able to reach the tower once it was on the ground.

Reagan National, which has light overnight traffic, has had just one controller on the midnight shift since 2002.

After Wednesday’s incident they’ve added a second.

The suspended controller had been working his fourth consecutive overnight shift. Federal investigators are now examining the effects of fatigue on the controller.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association tells WJZ there are 30 towers nationwide with one overnight shift worker. BWI has two overnight controllers in its tower.

More from Mary Bubala
Comments

One Comment

  1. Dave says:

    “Was Sleep On The Job”

    “I wanna know why this happened”

    Wow, some stellar writing skills are exhibited in this article!

  2. Bmore Res says:

    This happened for the obvious reason…and overworked air traffic controller “napped” on the job. It happened because he was alone and he should be suspended. As for the idiot managers that thought it was a good idea to have just one controller overnight because of light traffic, they need to be fired. At what point in a discussion does it become logical to leave just one controller on duty in an overnight position for a job responsible for get jumbo jets to the ground safely? I wonder if they still had a union would the controller had given in to such non-sense. Only in AMERICA….

    1. bill says:

      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 want to know why this happened,” said Randy Babbitt, FAA administrator.
      outrage,an investigation, get to the bottom of this ??? he fell asleep ! what’s so hard to comprehend about that ??? if there is light traffic at night at that airport and a decision was made to have only one controller,it was bound to happen .why is there always action after the fact ? why didn’t they realize 2 controllers should be there before something happened ?

  3. Sea Dog3 says:

    Everybody Knows Those People Drink Every Chance They Get!!!!! They Call It Sleep Now, Huh..

  4. audrey says:

    He is certainly not the only person to work a graveyard shift. If he can’t do it, he should be fired. “Federal investigators are now examining the effects of fatigue on the controller.”.. the results are that he fell asleep.. what is there to examine? Thank God the pilots didn’t fall asleep. There is no excuse for this.. there are enough mishaps and near misses as well as plane crashes without him adding to it. Fire the guy and get 2 people on the graveyard shifts that WILL stay awake.

  5. Baltimorebob says:

    We all have done that b4 get real people they are,truly over worked

  6. Doug says:

    “American 1012,you are clear to land on a feathery soft cushion,
    next to my beddy……
    ZZZZZZZZZZZ…”

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