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Thursday, March 24, 2011


Incident at DCA

In the news today, several planes had to land at Washington's National Airport without benefit of an air traffic controller because the control tower was "unresponsive." There are claims that the controller on duty was asleep, although this appears to be not confirmed. Pilots talking to each other in planes approaching the airport were actually heard speculating that the controller was "locked out" of the tower (!), and that it had happened before (!!).

The air traffic control system started downhill when Ronald Reagan broke PATCO, the air traffic controllers union, in 1981. And now we see where the continuing cutbacks in social services have gotten us to. Yes, perhaps this guy did fall asleep (or perhaps not). But why is there just one person doing such a critical job? What if he had a heart attack and died? What if he simply had to go to the bathroom and couldn't wait eight hours until the end of his shift? The idea that there would only be one person in an air traffic control tower is unacceptable. But it's the logical result of the direction this country has been going in for many years, starting (in some ways, anyway) with that notorious strike and union breaking in 1981, under the sainted Ronald Reagan (whose name I refuse to associate with the airport in question, even though in this particular case it's probably quite appropriate).

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