FAA: Another Controller Caught Napping on the Job

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Another air traffic controller has been caught sleeping on the job, the Federal Aviation Administration revealed in testimony before a Congressional panel. 

"(I am) disappointed to say we did find another incident ... just one," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee on Wednesday.
    
The FAA said in a statement released after the hearing that the controller was found napping during his midnight shift at The McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn., Feb. 19. One controller reportedly ran radar and landed planes while the other controller slept.

The latest incident comes after a similar incident garnered national attention in March. A supervisor at Reagan National Airport was suspended after acknowledging he fell asleep while two airliners landed without assistance.

Regarding the Tennessee case, Knoxville Airport officials say passengers were never in danger and that planes landed safely during the time in question.

"Airport safety in all rounds is a priority for the airport here at McGhee Tyson International Airport and, regarding this situation, at no time were the passengers, based on the information we were given, were the safety of the passengers compromised," Knoxville Airport spokeswoman Becky Huckaby said.

Nevertheless, passengers were still a bit shaken.

"Very concerning," passenger Mark Klett said. "Obviously, you're up in the air; your life's in the hands of the pilot and the people given the direction or instructions, so very disturbing."

Using stronger language, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, chairman of the transportation subcommittee, called the incident "outrageous."
     
"Certainly someone who purposely sleeps through his duties should be gone," Latham said. "It's unfortunate someone would put people's lives in jeopardy to catch up on a few hours sleep."

Meanwhile, some say they understand the pressures controllers face on the job.

"It's a very stressful job," airline pilot Pete Michaels said. "I mean, you have the responsibility of the safety of, you know, separation of safety of aircraft passengers and pilot.

"The air traffic system couldn't survive without controls, whether it's a commercial pilot or military or private pilots," he added. "Nothing is safe without controllers."

The Knoxville air traffic controller has been suspended for the duration of the investigation.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

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Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.