Air Traffic Controller Watches Movie While On Duty

Apr 20, 2011, 05:28 by John Steele

An Ohio air traffic controller was found watching a movie during his shift, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement late on Monday. The controller and his manager have been suspended, becoming the first workers reprimanded in a nationwide tour to correct recent flaps in controller safety.

According to Reuters, the national tour is a response to several separate incidents of controller negligence in recent weeks, including a lone controller at Washington's Reagan National Airport falling asleep on March 23 with two jetliners en route. At least seven controllers have been suspended to this point, mostly for sleeping on the job, UPI reported Tuesday.

The tour is punctuated by a couple close calls, including two taxiing airplanes colliding at JFK airport on April 11.

The suspended controller from the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center had left his portable DVD player too close to the microphone, filling the airwaves with the soundtrack of the movie he was watching for more than three minutes on Sunday.

During that time, pilots could not communicate with the tower. The pilot of a military aircraft used an alternative frequency to notify air traffic control of the problem.

The highly publicized incidents have the FAA changing policy, instituting new precautions allowing controllers to get extra sleep and allowing some on long shifts to work with a partner. Still, the FAA says, portable DVD players in the radar room are "unacceptable."