FAA official resigns over controllers falling asleep on the job

The Federal Aviation Administration official in charge of airport flight towers has resigned after a spate of reports of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said Thursday.

The FAA announced Wednesday it was putting a second person on oversight shifts in the flight towers of 27 airports after several controllers were suspended recently for being unresponsive as airplanes approached for a landing.

Babbitt said as he announced the resignation that the situation was unacceptable.
 

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"Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety," Babbitt said in a written statement released by the FAA. "This conduct must stop immediately. I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership.
 
"This morning I met with the head of our Air Traffic Organization, the part of the Federal Aviation Administration charged with operating our air traffic control system," Babbitt continued. "Hank Krakowski has submitted his resignation and I have accepted it."

Babbitt said Krakowksi would be replaced in the short-term by FAA chief counsel David Grizzle. He said the agency was conducting a "top to bottom review" of airport flight towers.  
 
"We are all responsible and accountable for safety – from senior FAA leadership to the controller in the tower," he said. "Employees at the FAA work diligently every day to run the safest air transportation system in the world. But I will continue to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure we concentrate on keeping the traveling public safe."
 
The FAA originally added a second person to the tower at Washington's Reagan National Airport in March after two planes were forced to land without assistance when a controller working a fourth consecutive overnight shift was sleeping. 

Controllers at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada and at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn., were also reported to have fallen asleep on the job.


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this week he was "outraged" by the incidents. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Congress should pass a reauthorization bill for the FAA to better equip the agency to deal with personnel issues.