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Two jets landed at Washington-National Airport with no tower contact – controller suspended
24 March 2011

An air traffic controller at Washington-Ronald Reagan National Airport has been suspended after reportedly falling asleep while on duty. Two aircraft landed unaided.

In the incident on March 23, two flights were involved. The first flight, American flight AA1012 arrived about midnight after a flight from Miami. The crew had to circle the airport because the crew failed to reach the Washington-National tower controller. They remained in contact with the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) controller until landing at National Airport about 00:06.

The second flight was United 628 from Chicago-O’Hare with 63 passengers and five crew members which landed about 00:25.

In a statement, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said:

“The FAA is thoroughly investigating Wednesday’s early morning incidents at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s control tower. While that is taking place, we have suspended the air traffic controller from all operational duties. I am determined to get to the bottom of this situation for the safety of the traveling public.

As a former airline pilot, I am personally outraged that this controller did not meet his responsibility to help land these two airplanes. Fortunately, at no point was either plane out of radar contact and our back-up system kicked in to ensure the safe landing of both airplanes.

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