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NTSB investigating sleeping air traffic controller

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal safety officials are investigating a report that two planes landed at Reagan National Airport without control tower clearance because the air traffic controller was asleep. A . . . ( Mehr...

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David Sims 0
I'm a little curious how those aircraft legally landed without clearance, or at least what procedures to follow if the tower is not communicating. I guess that is something I missed on the PPL test.
Daniel Baker 0
If there's no operable tower, it's not controlled.

If there's no response from tower and other aircraft don't seem to be interacting with the tower, and there's no light signals, you have a judgement call. If you think it's uncontrolled, you treat it like an un-towered field.

"reagan traffic, american 1012, 5 miles out runway 19 on the river visual, reagan traffic"
travisb922 0
Un-controlled ops. Another thing to do to troubleshoot is check the radios, if they work then yes do the un controlled ops. If the radio is not working, look for light gun signals.
Watch Dog 0
Do what these guys did. Talk to the TRACON. With some judgment and communication with PCT, treat the field as uncontrolled.
gerry ceccarini 0
I worked at an ARTCC for 21 years. It was not unusual for 10 to 15 controllers to be sleeping on the mid shift.
Watch Dog 0
I think this is prime time for Congress to be readdressing the FAA Authorization in regards to funding for more air traffic controllers. As a strong supporter of our nation's ATC, and frankly very much a fan of the work they accomplish on a daily basis, I know many facilities are currently way understaffed or will be in the very near future. I have several ATC friends, some who have recently retired, to one who recently graduated from the Academy. Each one I talk to have grave concerns about how FAA re-authorization of funding has the implications of causing a major shortage of available staffing. I encourage everyone to contact their representatives in Washington, and call your local NATCA office to express your support for our nation's ATCers and press for more funding and more hiring. Bring back PUBNAT and get these CTI grads up to speed ASAP.
Gene Nowak 0
Ironic! President Reagan fired the controller's in 1981. In 2011 they fall asleep at "his" airport due to fatigue.
Watch Dog 0
Yes Gene, ironic in a sense I suppose. Was it really necessary to post the exact same comment here and over on this squawk as well:
Not cool at all. That said, perhaps the next time I miss a call to me from ATC the controller will be a bit more understanding. Unlikely but a pilot can always dream.
gerry ceccarini 0
This may all moot. air traffic controllers will be replaced by automation in the not too distant future.
I find it funny that it was a stupervisor sleeping!!
s2v8377 0
Well said "Watch Dog" and Gene!!!
mark5718 0
Of all the airports to go "Uncontrolled"
mark tufts 0
i say lets take over reagan internationial and shw these stupidvisors on how to do thing and we will have two people in the control tower during midnight shift and rotate out every hour and let two more take over
racinron 0
After that crash at Louisville, I thought all towers were to have two controllers on a mid. I worked ATC for 26 years, hundreds of mid-shifts alone, never fell asleep. What should be looked at is the work schedule also. A different shift everyday, some times two quick turn arounds in a week. Your body has a hard a time adjusting to that sort of thing. August 3, 2011 will be the 30th anniversary of the ATC Strike, most of those hired after the strike can retire at any time. New controllers need to be hired now and get some good experience before all of those old controllers bail out and retire. There are a lot of good schools training people for ATC jobs. There is one in Valdosta, Georgia that, Advanced ATC, that has all of their students graduate with a CTO in hand after certifying at the local tower. Military controllers are another good source. Get some bew people in the system now FAA!
Matt Kladder 0
that crash happened in Lexington, and that controller was working lexington tower and approach, then the FAA said that those 2 positions cannot be combined, so a tower alone can have 1 person but if you have tower and approach they have to have 2 folks
Brad Littlejohn 0
I agree with WatchDog, but something else needs to be done well before that.

Move the FAA back under the hood of the Dept. of Transportation, and *OUT* of the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Because of that move back in 2001/2002, the FAA lost all authority and control over its airports, as that now is under DHS, which has so many different levels of bureaucracy (the FAA has to report to 87 different subcommittees under DHS) that NOTHING gets done!

The broad umbrella that DHS was given under Bush was the worst thing for aviation, and seriously needs reform.
Aaron Weintraub 0
The FAA was never moved under DHS - , they are still in DOT. The constituent agencies of DHS are listed at and include TSA, Secret Service, Customs, Coast Guard, etc.
Matthew Miller 0
Just shows how sleep deprived ATC is at buisy airports. Lesson, not to really punish these guys, but to figure out a way to give the ATC workers more sleep.
indy2001 0
Even in the middle of the night, it's ridiculous to single-staff any position, especially at a security-critical facility like KDCA. There are plenty of ways to become incapacitated beside falling asleep. A heart attack or stroke would result in the same situation. If the facility is important enough to keep open, it's important enough to have backup.
Proctor Baker 0

It's all about $$$$$

Gene Nowak 0
Yes atlwatchdog! Because like you, I believe in redundancy. Two radios, gyros, altimeters, etc in all planes, plus two pilots and two people in the tower!
Bob Harrison 0
Proctor Baker is right! All about $$$$$. The'll put another controller on the mid shift for several years then reduce staffing back to one person when another manager arrives (for economy) or there's another strike.
Bobby Rhett 0
If it wasn't for the ground ops, KDCA could easily go uncontrolled. The tower does not really handle anything to do with the restricted area...talking to the TRACON can serve the same purpose. It's the heightened activity of ground ops and field maintenance at night that require a person (or 2) in the tower.
Carl Staib 0
Safety: Things I've learned throughout life. This is one of them. Accidents don't just happen, there's a cause and it takes elements to cause them. In this case I'll use elements 1 thru 6. #1...You put a plane in the air and hope it doesn't fall to the ground with you in it. It probably won't. #2...Everything goes fine until you want to land but procedures have changed. You know the procedures and everything works out good. What happens if you hadn't known procedures. #3...IFR. Things start to get a little complicated but you're prepared because you have an IFR ticket and know how to use it. But suppose you didn't have an IFR ticket. At this point you've used up your elements and that's all she wrote. #4...At #4, you have a plane in the air, yours, procedures have changed and you're stuck in IFR conditions. WHAT CAN GO WRONG NOW! #5...Many problems are starting to stack up and you are becoming overwhelmed. #6...But for one reason or another everything works out, you've had the B-Jesus scared out of you and you land safely. To get six elements against you and still pull it off and land, you were lucky. Normally you don't get that many. By the time you reach 10 elements against you, you've lost. I this case, these pilots had 2 elements against them...A plane in the air and procedural changes. What I'm trying to express here is that if you eliminate the elements, the safety factor increases substantially. The element I see her is that we have approx. six major airports within our country that are apparently understaffed and one of the elements jumped out and bit a couple of aircraft. I'll let the lawyers place the blame, they always do, but the real blame here is that accident elements were
Carl Staib 0
Watch Dog 0
@Gene. LOL :)
Proctor Baker 0
Lets go back to the facilities. All towers on the operating floor SHOULD HAVE A HEAD. On ships (I'm a ship captain)we have a day bunk just aft of the bridge, one half hour nap does wonders for your concentration, also a small head.

Proctor Baker 0
That last remark was meant to assume two people on duty.

Yazoo 0
"...typically has four to five scheduled landings between midnight and 6 a.m. plus a few unscheduled takeoffs or landings." Why have the tower open anyway? Either leave it open uncontrolled, or close the airport. Don't scream security, because anyone could still fly into the prohibited areas. Why should the taxpayers pay for only 4-5 flights. Reagan National was supposed to be closed when Dulles was built (ala Love field and DFW) But the Capital Hill weenies cried that it was too far to drive. Funny that they expected the public to drive out to Dulles. As a major airline pilot I've flown into quite a few un-controlled airports. When we've been late, I've also had ATC tell me "... towers closing in 20 minutes. You're on your own after that." In once case the field was CAT II, which required a manned tower. If we didn't get there in 20 min, it was divert to another field.
preacher1 0
There are a lot of good comments here both Pro and Con, but the bottom line is this: The controller on duty was going into nite #4 of a standard 8 hr shift, not a split shift.Chances are he would have had one more night which would have been 40 hours. A lot of folks don't like shift work but people have done it for years. As one comment above, split and changing shifts are no good, but this doesn't appear to be the case here. It appears that he did something during the day and didn't rest. Regardless of all the other ills surrounding ATC and the FAA, they don't seem to be a factor here.
Franco Ivrea 0
Let's assume the those pilots were right in considering the filed uncontrolled. Then the question is: can an IFR flight land into an uncontrolled airfiled?


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