US investigators release sleeping controller report

The controller at the centre of one of the more serious US incidents in which three aircraft were forced to land without ATC assistance has described the frequency of midnight shifts as ´insane´.
The controller at Reagan National Airport fell asleep while on working alone on an overnight shift last March.
In a official report into the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board, the controller who began working for the FAA in 1990 and became a supervisor in 2005, recalled thinking, “…I need to throw some water on my face” as he noted the inbound approach of three aircraft.”
He did not recall anything after that until waking up later.
The pilots of the inbound aircraft were unable to reach the airport tower between 12:04 and 12:28am on March 23. Repeated phone calls from the regional facility to the tower also went unanswered.
Two aircraft – an American Airlines flight from Dallas and a United Airlines flight from Chicago with a combined 165 people on board – landed safely without any assistance from the controller.
The report noted that supervisors each work a week of midnight shifts about once a month, which he found ´extremely difficult´.
The controller told the investigation that the combination of the time change after his recent leave and the schedule change to the week of midnight shifts may have had some contributory effect.
Following the incident, the manager of the facility, in response to FAA directives issued following the incident, began scheduling a second person on the midnight shift and ensured nine hours scheduled time off following the midnight shift for all operational personnel.

Posted in News, Reports, Safety

Comments are closed.