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March 25th, 2011
07:44 AM ET

Two planes land without guidance as air traffic controller sleeps

Two planes were left to land without guidance Wednesday when they heard no response from the air traffic control tower.

The controller who was on duty is a 20-year veteran of the job, and has admitted he was asleep at the time of the incident. The FAA has suspended the controller while they investigate what happened.

Bob Richards is a former air traffic controller and author of "Secrets from the Tower". Richards talks to Ali Velshi about Wednesday's close call at Reagan National Airport.

Filed under: Airline safety • U.S.
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Joe

    I know FOR A FACT that this was a manager, not an air traffic controller. This is the boon doggle of the century. A manager, making manager money, to sleep at a tower that is closed for operation 11pm-6am. The only possible flights are extremely late landers. CNN....get your facts straight!

    March 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  2. Rob

    The controller was suspended? How about the guy(s) that set schedules?

    March 25, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  3. Kevin

    If every jet needs a co-pilot then every tower needs at least two controllers.

    Anyone who's had to work over-night shifts alone knows there are times when staying awake is impossible. Even if one can stay awake, are they alert enough to function.

    What if a lone controller got sick? How come nobody balks at th tens of thousands of planes with co-pilots but thinks it's safe for controllers to work over-night alone to save a few dollars? Penny-wise, passenger foolish.

    March 25, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  4. Doug Church

    It was not a controller. It was a management supervisor.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  5. Dwayne

    Why is Karen making a comment about the cost of adding a second air traffic controller for just 9 air craft, or about 1000 lives. It's a very bad look for someone who earns millions of dollars a year to look down her noise at someone make six figures as she stated.

    This is the real problem when you become very successful you forget how everyone else live and you pretend in you head that you understand how we feel. I am mean really with your income for reading the news you have a nerve to comment on a "six" figure salary for protecting lives as if it a waste of money.

    I use to respect your style and ability to deliver the new, but now I can see how you really feel.

    This is SAD

    March 25, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  6. JJ

    In Canada, it is currently mandated that all control positions, not just Tower positions, have two people on the midnight shift. It only makes sense when you think of the safety sensitive industry we work in.

    My recent association with the FAA, including the Command Centre, has been less than impressive. The bureaucracy involved in that organization is staggering. There are so many levels of management who have no ability to make a decision that there really is no wonder why progress takes decades.

    While privitisation in Canada from the government to Nav Canada has been less than impressive, in my opinion, the speed at which technology has improved our job is staggering. The FAA needs to be privatised ASAP.

    March 25, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  7. Fred

    I think his manager should be suspended. I find it idiotic that you leave a someone to run a tower by themselves. I would not suspend the controller, but would hold the leadership accountable for this mistake. What is the guy supposed to do if he gets sick or has to go to the bathroom and there is an emergency during that time?

    March 25, 2011 at 8:06 am |