Airport tower gets late-night help

The Federal Aviation Administration has added an additional air traffic controller to the midnight shift at Bob Hope Airport following several incidents nationally of controllers falling asleep on the job.

The FAA announced Wednesday that it would place an additional air traffic controller during the midnight shift at 27 control towers throughout the country. In addition to Bob Hope, other California airports that will gain a controller include Los Angeles/Ontario International, San Diego International and Sacramento International.

“Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. “We absolutely cannot, and will not, tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards.”

The FAA on Thursday also announced the resignation of the agency administrator who oversaw air traffic control.

All 27 towers on the list were previously staffed with a single controller during the midnight shift from 10:15 p.m. to 6:15 a.m.

Control towers are operated and staffed by the FAA independent of standard airport operations, said Bob Hope Airport spokesman Victor Gill, adding that there will be no visible change to the traveling experience at the airport.

“We are glad to have all of the personnel the FAA thinks are necessary, and we have complete confidence in their ability to do their job,” Gill said, adding that there had been no reported sleeping incidents in his more than 25 years at the airport.

Since the FAA operates and staffs air control towers, the move will not impact Bob Hope Airport’s budget.

Nighttime traffic at the Burbank airport is light, Gill added. The airport maintains a voluntary curfew on most flights between 10 p.m. and 6:59 a.m.

“The traffic we do have at night is, generally speaking, small cargo airplanes,” Gill said.

FAA officials said the additional overnight staffing was prompted by controllers falling asleep and leaving aircraft without proper guidance. They cited one incident on Wednesday in which a controller at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport was out of radio communication for 16 minutes, leaving a medical flight carrying an ill patient to land using guidance from a remotely located traffic control hub. The sleeping controller has been suspended.

The FAA is also investigating incidents of sleeping air traffic controllers at Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas and Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle.


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