Lindbergh Gets 2nd Controller After Sleeping Incidents

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lindbergh Field.

    Lindbergh Field will get a second controller added to the midnight shift after a napping air traffic controller forced a medical flight to land unaided in Nevada, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

    The FAA added a second overnight controller at 27 control towers around the country that are currently staffed with only one controller during that time, including Lindbergh Field.

    A controller fell asleep while a medical flight carrying an ill patient was trying to land about 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the FAA.

    The controller was out of communication for approximately 16 minutes. The medical flight landed safely. No injuries were reported.

    "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

    The controller has been suspended while the FAA investigates.

    This is the second case just this week of a controller being suspended for sleeping on the job.

    "The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

    At Boeing Field-King County International in Seattle, a controller fell asleep during his morning shift on Monday and was suspended, according to the FAA. The controller was already facing disciplinary action for sleeping on two separate occasions, the agency said.

    Two controllers at the airport in Lubbock, Texas, were suspended for an incident in the early morning hours of March 29, the agency said.

    In that instance, a controller in Fort Worth had to try repeatedly to raise the Lubbock controllers in order to hand off control of an inbound aircraft.

    The controllers also failed to hand off a plane departing Lubbock to the Fort Worth radar center, FAA said.

    "I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is absolutely unacceptable," said LaHood.
    The incidents come nearly five years after a fatal crash in Kentucky in which a controller was working alone. Investigators said the controller in Kentucky was most likely suffering from fatigue, although they placed responsibility for the crash that took 49 lives on the pilots.

    Retired air traffic controller Philip Aune called the incidents a "black eye" for all controllers.

    The 47 year veteran of Van Nuys Municipal Airport said there is no excuse for falling asleep because FAA guidelines give plenty of time to rest in between shifts.

    "They're required to have eight hours between shifts, and they are expected to get a nap and rest up before they get on shift again,"Aune told NBCSanDiego.