US & Canada

US air controller suspended after watching film at work

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt
Image caption FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said he was "infuriated" by the mishaps involving controllers

A US air traffic controller has been suspended for watching a film when he was supposed to be monitoring aircraft, in the wake of a series of reports of controllers sleeping at work.

The incident occurred on Sunday at a radar centre in Oberlin in Ohio, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The worker's microphone inadvertently transmitted the movie's audio to all nearby planes, the FAA said.

The FAA has suspended nine controllers and supervisors since late March.

Former FAA chief Hank Krakowski, who oversaw the day-to-day operations of 15,000 controllers at 400 airports, resigned last week.

In the latest incident, the transmission of the audio - from the 2007 movie Cleaner, starring Samuel L Jackson - apparently prevented the controller from hearing radio calls or issuing instructions to aircraft.

The transmission to all aircraft in the airspace the worker was supposed to be monitoring lasted three minutes, the FAA said in a statement on Monday.

The controller - who was using a DVD player - learned of the mishap early on Sunday when he was contacted by a military pilot, the FAA said. The administration has suspended the controller and a manager at the centre.

Sleeping at work

The day before the incident, a controller fell asleep while working an overnight shift at regional radar facility in Miami in the state of Florida.

The FAA has suspended a total of nine controllers and supervisors since late March over incidents involving workers sleeping on the job.

Almost all of the incidents occurred during overnight shifts.

Early on Monday, before the air traffic control agency disclosed the incident in Ohio, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said he was "infuriated" that air traffic controllers had been caught sleeping at work recently.

"None of us in this business can... tolerate any of this," Mr Babbitt said.

"It absolutely has to stop," he added.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has expressed his concern about the incidents in a series of television interviews during the past several days.

The head of the FAA, Hank Krakowski, who oversaw the day-to-day operations of 15,000 controllers at 400 airports, resigned on Thursday.

The agency has recently said it will require controllers to have an extra hour off between shifts.

After the changes take effect, controllers will have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts - an increase from the current minimum of eight.

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