Sen. Reid: Congress should pass FAA bill to deal with sleeping air traffic controllers

Reid went on to detail attempts by the pilot of an air ambulance to reach the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The pilot eventually landed the plane without any assistance from the flight tower, just as two planes did last month at Washington's Reagan National Airport in a similar circumstance.

"We now know that the pilot circled several times," Reid said. "We know he tried to call the tower not once, not twice, but seven times.

"This shouldn't happen in Nevada," he continued. "It shouldn't have anywhere in our country. It shouldn't happen in any airport and it certainly shouldn't happen to an air ambulance." 

Controllers were found to be sleeping or unresponsive recently at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn., Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle, Wash., and Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas.

Reid praised the announcement from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt Wednesday they were adding more controllers. He said that the FAA reauthorization bill that has been passed in different forms by the House and Senate should be reconciled.

"Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt are doing their jobs," Reid said in his remarks. "But, Mr. President, Congress has to do its job.

"We're grateful everyone in Reno is OK, but next time we might not be so fortunate," he continued. "Let's make sure our airports are safe so that next time we don't have to rely on luck, because that's what it was."

However, Reid called the FAA bill passed by the House, which includes anti-collective bargaining provisions for airport and railroad employees, "dangerous."