Officials investigate why the Las Vegas airport controller has fallen silent

Officials investigate why the Las Vegas airport controller has fallen silent

LAS VEGAS – Federal and airport authorities said Friday they were investigating why an air traffic controller became incapacitated during a night shift in the tower of bustling McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and fell silent.

"There were no security incidents during this incident," the federal aviation authority said in a statement that officials said they had taken 40 minutes while the female controller blurred words and lost consciousness just before midnight on Wednesday.

"An air traffic controller at the Las Vegas Tower was disabled during the service," the agency said. She did not identify the controller or the cause of her inability to work.

Airport Director Rosemary Vassiliadis made a statement stating that the initial results reflect the FAA rating.

Five incoming aircraft remained in the air during the incident and ground-based aircraft held positions or communicated with each other to ensure safety during the movement, the FAA said.

Air traffic records available on the Internet show that commercial airline pilots have difficulty understanding the controller during take-off, landing distances and taxiing instructions. Some start talking to each other that something is wrong.

At one point, the controller sounds drowsy and apologizes for the radio. He says she "chokes a bit". Minutes later, she gives the numbers of an aircraft wrong. Finally, her microphone opens for the sound of coughing and grunting.

She does not answer the request of a pilot before the sound of a man's voice is heard in the room as to whether the woman is okay.

Officials said a male controller who had been in the break was told to return to the tower. Paramedics responded.

The FAA said the woman was on administrative leave and the agency ordered two controllers to be in the tower during the full hours.

"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.

McCarran is one of the 10 busiest airports in the United States. The unidentified controller worked just over an hour before the trouble started, and communicated with pilots from 29 aircraft before it was replaced, the FAA said.

The head of the National Air Traffic Controller Association, Paul Rinaldi, issued a statement praising the work of thousands of union members across the country and promising cooperation in the FAA investigation "so that all the facts are known".

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