The authorities are investigating after an air traffic controller at McCarran International Airport was taken out of action earlier this week for a time when his co-controller was on a break.
US Air Traffic Authority officials said there were no security incidents, losses of required separation between aircraft or conflicts between the airfield and the aircraft during that period, which occurred after 23.00. on the 7th of November. But the agency has restricted the controller and investigated the incident that caught the attention of Nevada Rep. Dina Titus.
"I've been briefed on the incident in the air traffic control tower in McCarran and I'm waiting for more details, but I find the first reports deeply disturbing," said Titus, member of the Subcommittee Subcommittee on Aviation, in a statement on Friday. "The safety of travelers is paramount, and I will work with FAA and McCarran as this investigation continues."
FAA officials declined to explain in more detail how the controller was disabled, or whether it was a medical episode, an intoxication, or a sleep problem, invoking the controller's privacy. They said the controller's performance appeared to worsen at around 11:09 pm, about an hour in their shift, before being compromised at 11:24 pm. and not at 23:47
A second controller entered the cabin at the top of the tower, where the controllers sit at 11:50 p.m. and took over the air traffic at 11:54 clock.
FAA officials said the pilots turned to the Las Vegas access control inspector at the base of the tower, who briefed the controller who was having a break.
The agency said some pilots had decided not to start or communicate wirelessly with other aircraft while the controller could not perform the task. The ground plane kept its position or proceeded with caution when it tried to talk to the controller and communicate with each other, the FAA said.
"The FAA is deeply concerned about the incident, is thoroughly investigating what has happened, and is taking immediate steps to change the night shift personnel policy," the agency said in a statement.
While the inspectors are allowed to take breaks, the agency announced that it will implement, with effect from Friday, a directive requiring two controllers to be in the cab by a certain time, based on traffic and shift times.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said the union will work with the FAA on the investigation.
"It is important to remember the excellent work done daily by thousands of men and women protecting the national airspace system. Our air traffic controllers in Las Vegas and around the country are doing excellent work day in, day out and proving the highest professional standards, "Rinaldi said in a statement. "Our top priority is the safety of the National Aviation System. We are proud of our safety record both in Las Vegas and in every facility and we will continue to work on keeping our airspace system safe in the world, "