Adventures in Air Traffic Control

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It is often said that silence is golden. But not when you’re trying to land a passenger plane at Reagan National Airport. Last night the control tower at Reagan went silent, which forced the pilots of two airliners to land on their own. According to the Washington Post, the same situation occurred last year when the lone controller on duty locked himself out.

The Associated Press is reporting that the cause of the Reagan control tower’s latest disappearing act was the controller taking a snooze:

An aviation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident, said the single controller — a supervisor — was scheduled for duty in the tower at that time but had fallen asleep.

As I recently discussed, data from the Federal Aviation Administration shows that reported air traffic control errors have increased by 81 percent since 2007. Errors that were most likely to result in a collision or accident jumped 26 percent from 2007 to 2010.

We have repeatedly pointed out that Canada’s privatized air traffic control system is regularly recognized as being one of the best in the world. Yet, here in the United States we’re stuck with a perpetually mismanaged government-run operation. It would be nice if this latest example of FAA bungling woke Congress up (pun intended) to the idea of privatizing our nation’s air traffic control system.