Air controller caught watching a movie

Another air traffic controller and his manager were suspended Monday by the Federal Aviation Administrator, this time for watching movies on the job. 

The FAA announced that a Cleveland controller and manager were suspended after a military pilot heard a film playing over his radio frequency. The movie was being watched on a portable DVD player at the employee's radar position. 

"For a little more than three minutes, the controller’s microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the soundtrack of the movie over the radio frequency for that airspace," the FAA said in a statement. 

"The problem was brought to air traffic control’s attention by the pilot of a military aircraft using an alternate frequency. The controller and the front line manager have been suspended from operational duties pending an investigation. FAA policy prohibits the use of portable DVD players and other devices from being used on the floor of the radar room.”

An air traffic controller in Miami was suspended over the weekend for falling asleep, bringing the number of air traffic controllers caught or suspected of napping on the job in recent weeks to seven. 

In response to the rash of suspensions, the FAA has extended the number of hours air traffic controllers must be given between shifts from eight to nine. The agency also said it would require more managers to be on duty during early and late shifts, and it would prohibit controllers from swapping shifts to get longer weekends. 

However, the FAA eschewed calls from scientists to allow controllers to take naps during their scheduled shifts. 

"There is no excuse for air traffic controllers to be sleeping on the job. We will do everything we can to put an end to this,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT
LaHood did a round of television interviews Monday to limit the damage, and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and the head of the air traffic controllers union are touring facilities all week to tell controllers that being unaware on the job won't be tolerated. 

Babbit and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi are in Dallas Tuesday. They visited Atlanta Monday and have stops planned in Kansas City, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. 

The duo will also speak at the air traffic control training academy in Oklahoma City.