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FAA's air traffic manager resigns over control tower sleeping incidents

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt accepts the resignation of Hank Krakowski, head of the agency's Air Traffic Organization. Citing several recent incidents of air traffic controllers falling asleep at their posts, Babbitt said: 'This conduct must stop immediately. I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership.'

April 14, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • 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 nation's top manager of airplane traffic resigned after several incidents in which air traffic controllers fell asleep at their posts, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday morning.

The agency, which oversees the nation's civilian aviation system, announced in a posting on its website that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt had accepted the resignation of Hank Krakowski, head of the agency's Air Traffic Organization. In recent weeks, several incidents of air traffic controllers being asleep at the job have been reported around the nation.

“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,” Babbitt stated. “This conduct must stop immediately. I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership."

After a controller in the tower dozed off last month, two jets landed without clearance at Reagan National Airport, which serves Washington. A medical flight carrying a patient was forced to land on its own this week at the Reno-Tahoe Airport after a controller there reportedly was asleep.

Other incidents have been reported in the states of Washington and Tennessee. Two controllers have been suspended for a week.

The incidents sparked complaints that the staffing at control towers was inadequate. On Wednesday, the FAA announced that it would add controllers at 27 towers around the country, including Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and Ontario International in San Bernardino County. Thursday's reshuffling of the top officials was the next step.

"This morning I met with the head of our Air Traffic Organization, the part of the Federal Aviation Administration charged with operating our air traffic control system," Babbitt said. "Hank Krakowski has submitted his resignation and I have accepted it."

Babbitt went on to praise Krakowski, calling him a “dedicated aviation professional and I thank him for his service.” The FAA’s chief counsel David Grizzle will take over the post temporarily while a replacement is sought.

Babbit also said the FAA will look at the entire air traffic control system.

“We are conducting a top-to-bottom review of the way we operate our air traffic control system,” he said. “We are all responsible and accountable for safety – from senior FAA leadership to the controller in the tower.”

Michael.muskal@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LATimesmuskal

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