Air Traffic Controllers Nap, Smell Like Pot, and Snack on the Overnight Shift at One U.S. Airport

One of the controversial things I believe is that 20 years from now planes will fly like cars drive and we won’t need air traffic control at all. In the meantime, central remote towers may be a better solution than managing air traffic control at small airports, at least during the overnight shift.

Over the summer an American flight couldn’t land when all the airport employees had gone home.

Now it comes out that on November 19 two hospital helicopters couldn’t reach the Boise Airport air traffic control tower. It was the middle of the night. One helicopter was trying to take off, and the other was inbound from a hospital downtown.

Since neither one could reach the other or the airport, they called the state police. Police tried to reach the tower by phone and radio. They reached the airport, and used the tower call button. They flashed a spotlight at the tower. They turned on their patrol car flashing lights, ran the siren, and used an air horn. No one answered.

Copyright: cylonphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

When they entered the tower, they found one controller asleep. The other controller had left the tower and when they found him he “smelled of marijuana.” He insisted on stopping at the break room for pizza and a drink before going with the officers, insisting “it was no problem and everything was OK, and this wasn’t a big deal.”

On the way to the tower by an elevator, the officers and Gard reported smelling marijuana coming from the controller. In his report, Morlock described the man’s demeanor as “slow and confused as to what was going on.”

When they reached the tower, the second controller, who name was also blacked out of the reports, was standing near the center of the room. Gard asked him what was going on.

“The individual in the tower seemed very groggy and sluggish, what I would describe as dazed and confused,” Langton wrote in his report. “He responded by saying he hadn’t heard any radios or phones.”

If you can’t reach air traffic control remember that you can dial 911 even with a disconnected cell phone that’s helped a pilot land before.

On the other hand, if you’re unmonitored by air traffic control, it’s pretty tempting to do this:

An investigation is ongoing, and no charges have been filed.

(HT: Point Me to the Plane)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I am thankful that BOI still has air traffic control even though a few early morning wake-up calls went unanswered.

  2. @Melissa – If you were 10% of the person Barack Obama is you would realize what a jackass you really are.

  3. Melissa, what kind of foul creature are you and why do you leave the most irrelevant and thoughtless comments on this blog? I was just wondering….

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