Federal officials are investigating “an air traffic control service interruption incident” at Washington Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Va.
Two flights landed early Wednesday morning at the airport even though they were unable to make contact with the controller working in the DCA tower, according to the NTSB. The controller, who had 20 years of experience, including 17 at DCA, told federal authorities he fell asleep while on duty.
The controller was working his fourth consecutive overnight shift, prompting officials to raise concerns about fatigue, the NTSB said.
“The FAA is thoroughly investigating Wednesday’s early morning incidents at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s control tower,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. “While that is taking place, we have suspended the air traffic controller from all operational duties. I am determined to get to the bottom of this situation for the safety of the traveling public.
“As a former airline pilot, I am personally outraged that this controller did not meet his responsibility to help land these two airplanes,” Babbitt added. “Fortunately, at no point was either plane out of radar contact and our back-up system kicked in to ensure the safe landing of both airplanes.”