Sleeping Controller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Suspended

An air traffic controller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has been suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after falling asleep while on duty. During the controller’s nap, 2 planes had to land without clearance or guidance from the airport’s control tower.

The first flight that landed blindly at the airport was operated by American Airlines. It approached around midnight, but the pilot aborted the landing and circled when they didn’t get a response from the tower. The second flight approached about 15 minutes later, operated by United Airlines.

The pilots of both planes contacted a regional air traffic control facility, which usually guides planes between airports before handing the responsibility of their landing to wherever they are landing. The flights were able to land safely with a combined 165 people on board, and no one was injured.

The FAA hasn’t released the name of the controller, but it’s been reported that he was the only controller on duty at the time of the incident. It’s commonplace for controllers to work in the tower alone between midnight and 5am, when there is less traffic. This is the case at 31 airports in the US, including busy airports.

Randy Babbit, the administrator of the FAA, said that they are going to investigate this incident thoroughly. Meanwhile, they have suspended the air traffic controller involved. Criticizing the controller, he said that he is personally outraged, as a former pilot, that the controller didn’t meet his responsibility to aid the 2 flights in their landing. It’s fortunate that the planes stayed within radar contact and that their back-up system kicked in to make sure they landed safely, he continued, adding that he is determined to get to the bottom of what happened for passengers’ safety.



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