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‘Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers’ Prompt Changes At NH Airport

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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Manchester Boston Regional Airport

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MANCHESTER, NH (CBS) – Changes are coming to Manchester Boston Airport as a result of an Air Traffic Controller ‘sleeping problem’ at other airports in the country.

Manchester Boston Airport is one of 27 airports in the US that will be adding a second overnight air traffic controller, according to the FAA, following more than seven instances of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job so far this year.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

Ute Arsenault, of Laconia, was picking up her sister in law in Manchester when she heard the news. “I feel better that Manchester will have a second person on definitely,” said Arsenault.

Jennifer Bernard was picking up her husband, Ron. She said, “I think it’s a great idea. I’m surprised to find they only have one air traffic controller with the traffic in the area.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the CBS Early Show, “We’re not going to sit back and wait for somebody to tell us what to do. This is outrageous behavior. It’s ridiculous. And that’s the reason that I ordered two controllers in every tower,”

The FAA has now disclosed seven similar instances of sleeping controllers since the beginning of the month.

In the most recent case in Reno, Nevada, a pilot of an air ambulance flight with a patient on board couldn’t reach the sleeping air traffic controller. The pilot circled several times before saying he’d have to land the plane unaided.

In addition to the extra staff, there is a shake up at the top. Federal Aviation Administration head Randy Babbitt accepted the resignation of Air Traffic Organization chief Hank Krakowski.

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

Jennifer Bernard says she is grateful for an additional person in Manchester overnight. “I feel much more comfortable now knowing here and around the country there will be more people hopefully awake at night.”

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