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Head of air traffic controllers quits over sleeping workers

April 14, 2011|From Times wire reports
  • An air traffic controller fell asleep while working at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, shown above.
An air traffic controller fell asleep while working at the Ronald Reagan… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

The Federal Aviation Administration official in charge of operating the air traffic control system has resigned amid revelations that several controllers have fallen asleep on the job this year, the FAA chief said Thursday

Stepping down is Hank Krakowski, who has been the head of the FAA Air Traffic Organization. David Grizzle, the FAA's chief counsel, will be the acting chief of the unit during a search to fill the post, according to Randy Babbitt, the agency's administrator.

The development came after another air traffic controller apparently fell asleep while on duty, the sixth such incident this year that the FAA has disclosed.

The FAA said yesterday two more controllers were caught sleeping on the job, bringing to four the number the agency has reported this year. That number may grow. Two controllers were suspended for failing to hand off control of a departing plane in Lubbock, Texas, on March 29 and for failing to respond until contact attempts were repeated, the FAA said yesterday.

"Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety. This conduct must stop immediately," Babbitt said in a written statement.

"I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership," he said.

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