Think Twice About Flying Red-Eye To DC

Here's something that should restore confidence in the FAA: The only air traffic controller at Washington's Reagan National Airport early Wednesday morning was either sleeping on the job or got "locked out" of the control tower, forcing two pilots to land passenger jets on their own, according to The Washington Post. From midnight to 6 am, only one air traffic controller is on duty in the tower at Reagan. And apparently Wednesday's controller stopped responding to phone calls, pilot requests and even calls over a "shout line" loudspeaker in the tower. Here's a conversation between a Potomac TRACON controller (not at the airport) and one of the pilots:

"So you're aware," the controller said, "the tower is apparently not manned. We've made a few phone calls. Two airplanes went in the past 10-15 minutes, so you can expect to go into an uncontrolled airport."

"Is there a reason it's not manned?" the American pilot asked.

"Well, I'm going to take a guess," the controller replied, "and say that the controller got locked out. I've heard of it happening before."

"That's the first time I've heard of it," the pilot said.

"Fortunately, it's not very often," the controller said. "It happened about a year ago. I'm not sure that's what happened now, but there's nobody in the tower."

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded by telling the FAA to put more people on the graveyard shift in the tower at Reagan. That's a good start!

[Image via AP]