By Ralph Hipp
Well, the air traffic controller who says he was asleep on the job Wednesday night in the Control Tower of Reagan National Airport was suspended on Thursday. And I'm sure you heard Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has now ordered there be at least two controllers in the tower of one of the nation's busiest airports, a hop away from the Pentagon, the Capitol and the White House. That's another thing that makes this story so amazing, with pilots going on their own and using techniques in Washington -- that they might use in much smaller cities with only visual flight landing rules in effect.
In the controller's defense, he said he was pulling down his 4th consecutive overnight shift. But Amanda Lanum works 20 overnight shifts a month, and if she fell asleep (which she wouldn't) you would not be seeing our morning news at 5am. The famous nap at Reagan National does point out the problem of controllers who are overworked, and spread too thin in some cities.
The solo landings, both which went very well by the way, reminded me of the time when the man that airport is named for, President Reagan, fired all the unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike, and tossed out the old PATCO union through Labor Secretary Drew Lewis in August of 1981. Many labor leaders and politicians questioned if it was worth the cost of whatever those former controllers were making, to potentially sacrifice the flying safety of the American public. And that is still a question we were all asking today.
Aside from the collective bargaining debate in Wisconsin which will spread to other states, drop me a line or two on my blog about what happens to air traffic safety or anything in this country when we just can't find good help anymore... union or not. Ralph