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Air Traffic Controller Fell Asleep While On Duty

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The secretary of Transportation is directing Reagan airport to assign two air traffic controllers to midnight shifts, rather than one.
The secretary of Transportation is directing Reagan airport to assign two air traffic controllers to midnight shifts, rather than one.

Federal safety officials are reviewing air traffic control staffing at airports around the country after an incident at Reagan National this week where two planes had to land without control tower clearance.

It happened around midnight Wednesday and it's believed the air traffic supervisor on duty was asleep at the time.

The planes, one carrying about 90 passengers, the other about 60, were set to land at Reagan National but neither pilot was able to make contact with the air traffic control tower. That's when they called the regional control center known as, "Potomac Traecon" to get clearance to land.

"Area 1012 called a couple times on the land line and I called on the commercial line and there's no answer," the pilot said.

Controllers at the regional facility also repeatedly called the airport tower but got no answer.

"The tower is apparently unmanned. We called on the phone but nobody is answering so the aircraft went in to that uncontrolled airport," a controller said.

Both planes did contact a regional facility and were able to land safely.

Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, says he's directing the Federal Aviation Administration to put two air traffic controllers on the midnight shift at Reagan National instead of one. The FAA says it's looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriately.

CORRECTION: This post previously stated that the incident happened "around midnight Tuesday." It occurred around midnight on Wednesday.

**Video from The Washington Post with audio of one pilot speaking with a controller from LiveATC.net:**

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