KELPkid From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 6659 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 14054 times:
Just read about it myself...
Fortunately, it was late at night. Alas, the tower is supposed to be manned. However, traffic was so light at the time that the tower controller may have been redundant (assuming no weather that warranted instrument approaches).
Of the top of my head, the reasons you probably need a tower controller, even in the wee hours of the morning:
1) Instrument approach procedures often require a tower controller at a controlled field, and at many airports, the comments on the TERPS approach plate says that certain approaches are N/A (as in not available) without a tower contoller, or may have higher minimums without someone in the tower.
2) historically (although in the US, this is less and less a factor) many tower controlled facilities that are continually staffed have no automatic weather reporting capability, so the tower cannot report things like visibility. Even with automated weather, no one around means no one can update the ATIS when conditions warrant it.
3) no braking action reports in icy conditions.
4) for Part 121 ops (commercial scheduled), the field's ability to dispatch ARFF crews might be compromised without someone in the tower cab.
Just as a side note: in the US, at many GA-only tower controlled airports, the tower is often closed for the night (sometimes as early as 8 PM local time), and the field reverts to Class E (controlled for IFR flights only) or Class G (uncontrolled) airspace when the tower closes.
Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
Desh From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 239 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 13628 times:
Lets not forget that DCA is not just another airport. The articles mentions that this has happened once in the last couple of years as well. Glad the pilots were able to handle the situation by themselves, but given the actions of the FAA and the NTSB this does not seem to be a regular expected incident.
"History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again." - Kurt Vonnegut
ATCGOD From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 668 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 12803 times:
First off, I am a controller at Boise Airport in Idaho. We work 2 person mids in the tower. One person works the approach control and one person works the Tower. It's happened before that a person comes upstairs on the mid, drops off their stuff (FOB that allows entry into the tower included) and sometime during the night walks out to go to the bathroom. They are, of course, let in by the other controller. So it does happen.
I thought one person mid-shifts went away after the Comair accident in 2006. Another interesting point made in the article is that a supervisor works the midnight shift at DCA. Kinda surprising that they'd do that. Supervisors never work the mid-shift here...maybe at larger airports that's a different story, but not from what I've heard.
The reason (as I understand) that our airport is a 24 hour facility is because some major airlines don't allow their jets to land without a functioning control tower. Sometimes, especially during the summer, there is flow going into the airports back east and we occasionally get United or Delta coming in at 0400L.
It can't be that the controller fell asleep...the article says that they were calling them on the phone, shout line, etc. You have to be deaf not to hear any of that. It clearly points to being out of the tower cab. Anyways, just thought I'd post my $.02
EWRandMDW From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 434 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 12244 times:
Let's not forget that DCA is literally across the highway from the Pentagon, and in very near proximity to many monuments and US government buildings, including the Capitol and White House. I would expect the tower to be staffed 24/7/365 just because of the airport's location!
piper31 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 7 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 11874 times:
The reason Boise had two on the midshift is because they also have approach control services. The rule that was out from the FAA was if there is a radar approach and tower operation there will be at least one controller per option for midshift staffing. DCA is only a tower operation and they have been staffing a supervisor since the Cessna flew into the White House several years ago. DoT Secretary LaHood has ordered the staffing to be raised to two on the midshift at DCA immediately and the FAA shall review their overnight staffing throughout the nation. We may see more "one option" facilities mandated to go to two people on the midshift. I was a controller for over 30 years and always thought only one on mid was not sufficient.
It is also true this person at DCA was a supervisor but before we go out and hang him or any controller in this situation we should wait for the facts. Who knows, there could be a medical situation we are not aware of.
C767P From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 908 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 11590 times:
Quoting KELPkid (Reply 2): Just as a side note: in the US, at many GA-only tower controlled airports, the tower is often closed for the night (sometimes as early as 8 PM local time), and the field reverts to Class E (controlled for IFR flights only) or Class G (uncontrolled) airspace when the tower closes.
There are airports with 121 service where the tower closes and the airline has scheduled service after the tower has closed. Approach control is able to monitor tower frequency and they can cancel once on the ground.
tjwgrr From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 2549 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 11534 times:
Quoting catiii (Reply 3): This is a big deal in that someone fell down on the job, but airliners land at uncontrolled fields regularly, so it isn't necessarily a safety of flight issue.
Common here in GRR- our tower is closed from 0000-0530 local and commercial landings (and occasionally some takeoffs) happen quite frequently during the time the tower is closed. Chicago Center ATC handles approaches and departures while the tower is closed. Here in GRR, ATC is able to communicate with the A/C on the ground easily since there is an ATC transmitter right at the field. Additionally pilots broadcast their position and intentions on the advisory frequency, in our case the tower frequency. Interesting to listen to.
Direct KNOBS, maintain 2700' until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway 26 left approach.
SVO767 From United States of America, joined Nov 2009, 36 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 10423 times:
Adding another controller seems to deflect the issue that someone who is the only body in the control tower when there are flights still scheduled to arrive isn't being responsible enough to stay awake or bring their badge with them at all times. It makes sense to add another controller from the standpoint that they can open a door for a locked out person or if someone falls asleep, but that shouldn't be happening in the first place. It ignores the issue.
chuchoteur From France, joined Sep 2006, 789 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 10078 times:
In most parts of Europe you're not allowed to work alone for Health and Safety purposes, so by default you have 2 persons in the tower (the second one may not be an ATCO though).
At my airfield when the tower closes we can still shoot non-precision approaches, but we are asked by the Regional ATC for a contact phone number and expected time on ground before we leave the frequency. If we don't call back and close the flight plan after landing they try to call us, then activate emergency services.
sccutler From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 5901 posts, RR: 26
Reply 23, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 9959 times:
Quoting EWRandMDW (Reply 12): Let's not forget that DCA is literally across the highway from the Pentagon, and in very near proximity to many monuments and US government buildings, including the Capitol and White House. I would expect the tower to be staffed 24/7/365 just because of the airport's location!
Huh? How is the proximity to buildings, of whatever importance, remotely relevant to the discussion?
The pilots are the ones who fly the airplanes, and I have absolute confidence that they can navigate and aviate with sufficient precision to avoid bumping into buildings.
...three miles from BRONS, clear for the ILS one five approach...
my1le From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 182 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (4 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 9989 times:
DCA Unicom: 122.95 ---> We all learn at and around uncontrolled airports. I am not sure about others but if the tower is not responding I am going over to Unicom and announce my position go in and land. I think this is getting blown a little out of proportion.
They cannot yell at you for landing without landing clearence if there is nobody to give that clearence!
: Happened in SEA a couple of years ago... late night/early morning, one or two intl arrivals (I think one was a KE) had to land on their own. The sing
: While the situation is unsual, and frankly shouldn't have happened, I agree... an uncontrolled airport is hardly the worst thing that could happen. I
: It'll be a BIGGER deal for the on duty Controller, then it was for the pilots of the A/C. Soooooo....what does it's proximity have to do with manning
: I'd have to imagine that there is some air defense systems located at the White house and the Capitol.
: The majority of GA airports don't have towers at all, let alone one that's open during the day but closed at night. Many of these get a lot of bizjet
: Could be he got locked out, but maybe he had to poop or something.. Resisting nature in the long run is useless. I agree though that a tower should be
: It's not quite that simple in the case of an airport like DCA. The CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) might or might not be the same as a UNICO
: In our country airports with ATC Towers and not just advisory services are required to have ATC controllers in order to be operational at all. If you