FAA Suspends Controller for Watching Movie

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The Federal Aviation Administration has suspended an air traffic controller and his manager because the controller was caught watching a movie instead of monitoring aircraft.

The incident comes after at least five cases of other controllers falling asleep while on duty.

The controller in question was watching a movie on a DVD player early Sunday morning while on duty at a regional radar center in Oberlin, Ohio, near Cleveland, that handles high-altitude air traffic, the FAA said in a statement Monday.

The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the audio of the movie - the 2007 crime thriller "Cleaner," starring Samuel L. Jackson - for more than three minutes to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

The controller's microphone became stuck in the transmit position, preventing him from hearing incoming radio calls or issuing instructions to planes during the incident, the agency said.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said early Monday, before the agency had disclosed the Oberlin incident, that he was "infuriated" that air traffic controllers have been caught snoozing on the job.

"None of us in this business can. tolerate any of this," Babbitt said. "It absolutely has to stop."

The FAA has new rules in place to keep air traffic controllers awake on the job. Under the new requirements, controllers are required to have at least a nine-hour break between shifts and management will be required to be on duty during late night shifts.

The FAA has suspended nine controllers and supervisors since late March.

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