March 24th, 2011

Reagan International Airport. Near midnight. A flight from Miami with 97 people on board is coming in for a landing. The pilot waits for the air traffic controller to come on air and tell him what to do.

Silence. The controller is asleep. Worse, he’s the only one on duty. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. The collective Federal mind is in more of a coma than the traffic controller if they think only one guy can handle all the air traffic flying into RIA. Staffing cuts are expected, but only one air traffic controller on the night shift? Thats nuts. What if the guy had a heart attack or came down with The Black Mille Lac or some other malady?

This is stunning. Within hoop shooting distance of the airport is the Pentagon, The White House, the halls of Congress. And while the flight from Miami was busy getting a commercial frequency up and running, another flight from Chicago was also intent on making a final approach. Fortunately, both pilots were on the ball and landed their respective aircraft without incident.

Reagan International needs more than one controller on duty even if it is the dead of night because the one thing you don’t want to have is an emergency where the guy on the ground isn’t alert and able. The dead of night is one stage. Night of the dead is another.

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