Air traffic controller becomes incapacitated while on duty, FAA says

Local News

An air traffic controller at McCarran International Airport was placed on administrative leave following an incident this week. On Wednesday evening, an air traffic controller at the Las Vegas tower became incapacitated while on duty, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.  

The statement went on to say:

“The FAA is deeply concerned by the incident, is thoroughly investigating what occurred, and is taking immediate steps to modify its overnight shift staffing policies. No safety events occurred during this incident. The controller is being placed on administrative leave and restricted from working air traffic.”

 “We have thoroughly reviewed the incident and confirmed that no safety events or losses of required separation between aircraft occurred, and there were no conflicts between aircraft on the airfield. However, the FAA is very concerned about this incident and what occurred is not acceptable.” 

“Our safety system is very interdependent and includes multiple layers of redundancies, so there is no single point of failure. When one component fails, the risk increases but there are other processes and procedures in place to prevent an accident from occurring. For instance, pilots are highly trained and will not land unless they have a landing clearance and are comfortable with it. 

In this instance, some pilots opted not to depart or communicated with other aircraft on the common radio frequency. Aircraft on the ground either held their position or proceeded cautiously while questioning the controller and communicating with each other.”

8 News NOW obtained about 16 minutes of audio of the air traffic controller giving commands to the pilots that night.

Pilot: “Is there somebody up there that knows what they’re doing?”

Pilot: “We’re number one, but we’re a little concerned about this, so we’re waiting it out.”

Air Traffic Controller: “Standby in your slot.”

Pilot: “I’m sorry; say again.”

Air Traffic Controller: “Standby in your slot.” 

Pilot: “Ok, I think you’re saying stay here on spot 15?” 

Air Traffic Controller: “Affirmative. Standby on slot 15.” 

Pilot: “I hate to ask you this, but do you have a supervisor?”

Pilot: “Something’s wrong”

Air Traffic Controller: (Slurring) Sorry, I’m choking a little bit (mumbles commands).”

Representative Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District released the following statement:

“I’ve been briefed on the incident that occurred at the air traffic control tower at McCarran and am awaiting further details, but I find the initial reports deeply disturbing,” said Representative Dina Titus a member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. “The safety of travelers is of paramount concern and I will work with the FAA and McCarran as this investigation continues to unfold.”

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