Falling Asleep... in the tower?


CNN is running with this story… about 2 commercial planes that had to land without tower assistance at Reagan last night:

cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/03/24/dc … google_cnn

Solo controller says “I fell asleep”.


I have to wonder, if traffic is so light at night that one controller can handle it, why not just close the tower at night and make the airfield uncontrolled. Many smaller towered airports around the country close the tower during the slow hours of the night.

My guess would be its political, imagine if Congress found out the airport across the river closed its tower at night.


Honestly- it happened late at night. Who cares. it’s not like they was much traffic.
Big deal.


It is a big deal. FAA once again mismanagement could have caused an accident. If the tower is to be opened 24 hours then they should have at least two controllers on duty.


NO It’s not a big deal- at that time of night the only thing that guy does is says “you’re cleared to land”.

Don’t try and tell me it’s a safety issue, if they pilots are that inept at united that they can’t land at an uncontrolled airport they need to look for a new job.


The point I was trying to make was that if the AF/D says there tower is open 24 hours a day then aircraft arriving at the airfield should rightfully expect someone to answer them when they radio in to the tower.

If there’s going to be a controller on duty then make it two controllers. Why? Because
(1) you can’t expect one controller to stay at the position all day. There are bodily functions that will need to be attended to.
(2) With two controllers working the backside of midnight one can keep the other awake or, at the very least, you’ll have one awake while the other one naps.


Reminds me of a blog, that has since been taken down, lambasting Serco which is a British Company that has a rather large contract to supply controllers for the contract towers around the country. The blog accused them of massaging numbers to keep facilities at a lower level so they didn’t have to pay the controllers as much, targeting controllers who had legitimate complaints etc. They apparently have numerous waivers to short staff the facilities during traditionally slow periods. That means one controller on duty instead of the recommended minimum of two.
How can any company staff a facility, any facility, for14 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year with a staff of 5?



So we should have two highly-skilled people at every tower around the country that’s open 24 hours just so one can keep the other awake (or so one can sleep)?

A controller probably costs the taxpayers 60 to 80 large a year (pay & benefits). Staffing an extra controller in just ten towers costs us 3/4 of a million. 100 towers…? That’s $7.5 Mil - just so 100 people can sleep on the job…

No, one controller should be plenty, and if he or she cannot stay awake, give 'em a K-mart application and send 'em home.


Or don’t keep them open 24/7. It sounds like Reagan tower could reasonably be closed from, say, 1 to 5 AM…


One controller obviously isn’t enough. Even one falling asleep at the wrong time is one too many.

What needs to be done is to quantify how many controllers are are needed at a tower during the night hours. If it is only 1 then perhaps that tower should not be opened 24 hours and a notation made in the appropriate AF/D.

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out the only reason why there is a controller at DCA in the middle of the night is a political reason. Many politicos use DCA and they wouldn’t be happy to find out they are landing at an airport without a controllers. It’s not that far fetched - this airport has lots of reserved spaces that are to be used by senators and representatives only.


According to some online website 8) DCA had 5 arrivals and 4 departures between midnite and 6AM last night. Most of those were before 1AM or after 5AM. Somehow I think mechanics repositioning airplanes can manage by themselves, they do just fine at other airports around the country.


FAA mismanagement? As far as I can tell, the FAA did their job. Tower there and funded - check. Someone showed up to work, shift covered - check. There was someone on duty - check. That person was sleeping. Ahhh damn, guess the FAA needs to hire an attendant to keep the person on duty awake, and another person to check on that person. Yeah, that’s it - Check…


If there is not enough traffic to justify at least two controllers, as in this case, then in my opinion there is not enough traffic to justify having a tower open 24/7. Many airports that are much busier than DCA close their tower during the slow hours of the night. I work at an uncontrolled airport, believe me the airline pilots know what to do without a tower.




This was posted first:


Yeah, but this is a better thread.