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Crackdown on sleeping controllers leads FAA to beef up staff at two L.A. airports

April 13, 2011 |  2:21 pm

Krys T. Bart, President, CEO for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, talks to the media Wednesday

Two Los Angeles area airports must add air traffic controllers during midnight shifts as part of a national effort to increase staffing after several controllers across the country fell asleep while working alone, federal regulators announced Wednesday.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said controllers would be added at 27 airports nationally, including Bob Hope in Burbank and LA/Ontario International in Ontario. San Diego International and Sacramento International also will get additional nighttime staffing.

According to the FAA, the airports have had only one air traffic controller on duty during midnight shifts.

"I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is absolutely unacceptable," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our No. 1 priority, and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected."

The latest incident occurred Wednesday morning at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada when a controller fell asleep while a medical flight carrying an ill person was trying to land.

FAA officials said the controller, who was out of communication for about 16 minutes, was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. The aircraft managed to land safely. Additional controllers will also be added at that airport.

Including the Reno incident, at least five controllers have been suspended for falling asleep while on duty: in Seattle; Lubbock, Texas; and Washington, where a lone controller at Reagan National Airport fell asleep last month and could not assist two airliners coming in for landings.


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Photo: Krys T. Bart, CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, meets with the media to discuss an incident Tuesday in which an air traffic controller at the Nevada airport fell asleep while a medical aircraft was attempting to land. The controller was suspended. Credit: Tim Dunn / Associated Press