Probe Air Traffic Control System

Probe Air Traffic Control System

April 22, 2011

The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

On Feb. 19 an air traffic controller at the McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn., prepared a makeshift bed for himself – in the control tower. He then curled up and enjoyed a five-hour nap. A co-worker tried to rouse him, but the controller rolled over and went back to sleep.
The controller was fired by the Federal Aviation Administration – on Wednesday, two months after his egregious misconduct. Fortunately, another controller was, with some difficulty, able to handle aircraft control his sleeping partner ignored.
Why did it take so long for the FAA to fire the controller? In fairness, the agency revealed earlier this month it was “in the process” of doing so – but that still was nearly six weeks after the incident.
We suspect it was no coincidence the Knoxville controller and another who fell asleep on duty in Miami were fired officially on Wednesday. It was that day the FAA faced a new round of criticism over airport safety, as a result of a situation involving first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the vice-president’s wife. The two were on a plane that had to abort a landing at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, because controllers at one point allowed the craft to come too close to a larger airplane.
Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden never were in any danger, the FAA explained. Still, the incident was a new embarrassment. It led the FAA to announce better traffic control plans for planes carrying the first lady – and to speed up its firing procedure for the two sleeping non-beauties.
We agree the safety of Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden needs to be a priority. But what about the rest of us? Why did it take the situation involving the two women for the FAA to crack down more expeditiously on the two sleeping controllers?
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Congress should look into the FAA’s air traffic control system.

© Copyright 2011 The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register.

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