Planes Landed as DC Controller Slept

FAA probing incident at Reagan National Airport
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2011 1:20 AM CDT
Updated Mar 24, 2011 4:35 AM CDT
The FAA control tower at Reagan National Airport is seen in Arlington.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(Newser) – Two planes were forced to land without guidance or clearance from the control tower at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, DC, because the air traffic supervisor was asleep, federal officials say. Efforts to reach the supervisor—the only controller on duty at the time—failed, and the late-night flights early yesterday had to rely on guidance from a regional air traffic control center 40 miles away, officials tell AP. The two planes—carrying a total of 165 passengers and crew—landed safely, broadcasting their progress as they approached.

The FAA is investigating the incident. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered the agency to put two controllers on the midnight shift at Reagan, and examine staffing levels elsewhere, the Washington Post reports. "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," he said. Air traffic controllers made a record number of mistakes last year.

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