A 20-year air traffic control veteran indicated that he had fallen asleep for a period of time while on duty at Reagan International Airport, according to a statement released Thursday by the NTSB. He had been working his fourth consecutive 3rd shift (10pm to 6am) and had fallen asleep due to fatigue. The Air Traffic Controller has since been suspended pending an investigation by the NTSB & the FAA.
The incident began at 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday, when an American Airlines plane attempted to call the tower to get clearance to land and got no answer. American Airlines flight 1012 called a few times and even on a land line but got no answer from the tower. The pilot figured that the ATC (air traffic controller) got locked out of the tower as it seems that this has happened before. The flight landed about 15 minutes after the last call without incident as an “uncontrolled airport.”
A United Airlines flight also landed without incident at the same airport later that morning and also failed to reach the towers controller.
This is just one of the many stories we hear about errors made at airports across the country. What is causing this? Poor training? Outdated equipment? Increased hours and pressure on these individuals? Of maybe it’s all of the above. In any case, we need to make sure that incidents like this do not happen again. When hundreds of people’s lives are at stake, the best people with the best equipment and training are to be in charge.