Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Air controller watched film on duty

An air traffic controller drinks a cup of coffee while working in a terminal radar approach control room (AP)

Another US air traffic controller has been suspended, this time for watching a film when he was supposed to be monitoring aircraft, the embattled Federal Aviation Administration said.

While on duty, the controller was watching the 2007 crime thriller Cleaner, starring Samuel L. Jackson on a DVD player early on Sunday morning at a regional radar centre in Cleveland that handles high altitude air traffic, the FAA said in a statement.

The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, briefly transmitting the film's soundtrack to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

The controller's microphone became stuck in the transmit position, preventing him from hearing incoming radio calls or issuing instructions to planes for more than three minutes, FAA said.

A military pilot contacted the FAA about the incident.

The FAA has suspended eight controllers and supervisors since late March for allegedly losing contact with aircraft while on duty.

In five of the suspension cases, the controllers allegedly fell asleep. In another case, FAA is investigating why two controllers in Lubbock, Texas, were unresponsive to radio calls.

The incidents have shaken FAA officials, made air traffic controllers the butt of TV jokes and raised public jitters about the safety of air travel.

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