The Federal Aviation Administration says a McCarran International Airport air traffic controller “became incapacitated while on duty” Wednesday evening.
Audio of the incident indicates the air traffic controller involved is a female. A number of pilots appear to tell the air traffic control tower that its radio communications are broken up. At one point a pilot can be heard saying “Is there somebody else there who knows what they’re doing?” The female voice in the tower responds “Say again.” Another pilot can be heard saying “Tower, do you have anybody else up there?” Another pilot suggests the directions given by the tower are not correct.
“The FAA is deeply concerned by the incident, is thoroughly investigating what occurred, and is taking immediate steps to modify its overnight shift staffing policies,” the agency said in a statement. “No safety events occurred during this incident. The controller is currently restricted from working air traffic.”
“McCarran international Airport personnel became aware of an incident involving an air traffic controller late Wednesday evening and immediately responded, making contact with the FAA at multiple levels to assist in its resolution,” said Clark County Director of Aviation Rosemary Vassiliadis said in a statement.
“I’ve been briefed on the incident that occurred at the air traffic control tower at McCarran and am awaiting further details, but I find the initial reports deeply disturbing,” U.S. Rep. Dina Titus said in a statement Friday afternoon. Titus is a member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. “The safety of travelers is of paramount concern and I will work with the FAA and McCarran as this investigation continues to unfold.”
Update: In a statement, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association Paul Rinaldi is pledging cooperation with the FAA investigation “so that all the facts are known. It is important to remember the outstanding work that that is done every day by the thousands of men and women who keep the National Airspace System safe.”