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Author Topic: RNO tower sleeping on the job?  (Read 10407 times)
silagi
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« on: April 13, 2011, 08:25:33 PM »

Air Controller Asleep on The Job at Reno Tower

http://www.foxreno.com/news/27533529/detail.html

Posted: 11:17 am PDT April 13, 2011
Updated: 3:16 pm PDT April 13, 2011

A medical flight with at least three people aboard was forced to land overnight without help from air traffic control after the lone controller on duty didn't respond to repeated contacts from the plane and airport staff. Reno-Tahoe International Airport chief Krys Bart told The Associated Press no one was hurt in the Reno incident about 2 a.m. Bart said she was told one air traffic controller was on duty in the tower at the time. She said she doesn't know the status of the controller.
The Federal Aviation Administration has promised a full investigation.

"The flying public needs an assurance from the FAA that this situation will be addressed at all airports," she said. "We must have adequate staffing." Last month, two jetliners landed at Washington's Reagan National Airport without tower assistance after the lone air traffic supervisor fell asleep. A follow-up investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration uncovered a second incident of an air traffic controller sleeping on the job in February during the midnight shift at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered an examination of controller staffing at airports across the nation, and he directed that two controllers staff the midnight shift in Washington. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened its own investigation, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has added yet another investigation.

The Piper Cheyenne plane involved in the Nevada incident is a twin engine turboprop with seating for five.
Airport staff heard the pilot trying to contact the tower and then tried to contact the tower themselves, Bart said.
"The pilot evaluated the airfield. The weather was clear. The aircraft did land without incident," she said.
It was not immediately clear where the flight was coming from.

********************************************

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N20TN/history/20110413/0730Z/KMMH/KRNO
« Last Edit: April 13, 2011, 08:34:03 PM by silagi » Logged
dave
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2011, 11:35:54 PM »

These are some notes and a couple of recordings (silence largely removed from one and the second one largely intact during the period of nonresponse from Reno Tower) I put together earlier today,

Flight track:
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N20TN/history/20110413/0730Z/KMMH/KRNO

All times in Pacific Daylight Time

1:39 AM: N20TN (callsign "Life Guard 20TN" checks in with Oakland Center on his departure from KMMH (Mammoth Yosemite).
              Oakland Center assigns a squawk code (used to radar identify the aircraft and track it on radar).

1:42 AM: Oakland Center radar identifies N20TN and provides N20TN his IFR flight plan, the routing for which is direct to Reno,
               and has N20TN maintain 16,000' MSL (altitude). He also issues the altimeter setting to N20TN (required).


1:51 AM: Oakland Center informs N20TN to, in the event of "lost communications," contact "Reno Approach" on 119.2 (MHz) when he is 30 miles south of the Mustang VOR (a navigation beacon, identifier FMG).  At this hour of the night NORCAL Approach was providing radar service for the Reno area.  This instruction is not uncommon in mountainous areas where communication can be lost occasionally.

1:57 AM: Oakland Center tells N20TN to contact Reno Approach on 119.200 (MHz).

1:57:30 AM: N20TN contacts Reno Approach (NORCAL) on 119.2.  NORCAL Approach descends N20TN to 13,000' MSL and asks N20TN which runway he would like at Reno...N20TN informs NORCAL that he has the airport in sight.  NORCAL clears N20TN for a visual approach to Runway 16L (16 Left) at the Reno Airport.   This clearance allows N20TN to proceed direct to the airport visually.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: No communication is is heard at all from this point until approximately 2:06 AM on either Oakland Center, NORCAL Approach, or Reno Tower frequencies.

2:06 AM: N20TN is in communication with NORCAL Approach claiming that he has not been able to contact Reno Tower.  N20TN informs NORCAL that he is going to try on 118.7 (the Reno Tower frequency).

2:06:40 AM: Life Guard 20TN is heard trying to contact Reno Tower - no answer after two attempts (second attempt at 2:06:55 AM).

2:07:55 AM: Life Guard 20TN is heard trying to contact Reno Tower (third attempt heard). No response.

2:08:07 AM: Life Guard 20TN informs NORCAL Approach that he has been unsuccessful in contacting Reno Tower on all published frequencies for Reno (Clearance, Ground, Tower frequencies).

2:08:20 AM: NORCAL Approach informs N20TN that they are going to try to contact Reno Tower "on an outside line."  N20TN informs NORCAL that they will just circle the airport for a while.

2:08:52AM: NORCAL asks N20TN  (again) if they have been able to contact Reno Tower.  N20TN says no (but had not been heard trying to call as they were circling waiting for NORCAL to come back from trying to reach Tower).
             
2:09:04 AM NORCAL: OK, were going to call them on a phone line."   (Assumption is that they had already tried calling on the FAA intercom)
2:09:10 AM N20TN: "OK, we'll circle...some more." "We've got a pretty sick patient, we may just have to land."
2:09:20 AM NORCAL: "Life Guard 0 Tango November, roger."
2:09:30 AM N20TN: "We'll do a couple of turns out here."
2:10:40 AM NORCAL: "They're not answering the phone line either, we're going to try and get another number, see if someone can go up there and check the tower."

2:13:07 AM: N20TN calls NORCAL: "Yeah, we're gonna need to land"
                   NORCAL: "Life Guard 0TN, roger, and landing will be at your own risk.  The last reported winds was: calm."
                   N20TBN: "OK, we're gonna switch to Tower (frequency) and make our traffic reports."

2:14:16 AM: N20TN informs area traffic on 118.7 (Reno Tower frequency) that he is turning final for Runway 16L and landing "full stop" (which means he is landing and then taxiing off the runway).

2:15:12 AM: "Ops 7" is heard calling Reno Tower with no response.   Ops 7 is most likely some sort of airport operations unit (unconfirmed).

NOTE: No inbound/outbound airport activity heard after the N20TN arrival until 2:55 AM when Tower is heard announcing "Information Juliet is current" - this is the ATIS code that is generated by the Tower each hour and is contained on a recording that is announced to pilots on a special frequency, informing pilots of the current weather and runways in use.












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silagi
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« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2011, 12:33:48 AM »

I too was curious about that gap between 1:57 and 2:06 where they were supposedly trying to contact the tower.  This is the first time that I have listened to this Reno feed but it almost sounds like something to the scanner at that time.  When it does come back on at 0206 there is an abrupt adjustment in the volume.   Maybe the feed host was doing something at that time that prevented it from recording?
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rbrong
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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2011, 06:29:47 PM »

Hello All,

I'm the feed host for KRNO.  There wasn't anything going on with the feed setup at that hour so it should have been running throughout the incident at Reno.  The only automated procedure on the feed compute is a daily reboot at 1200Z.  That came a couple of hours after this, though, so it shouldn't have been an issue.

It's interesting to see how much stir this has caused.  The pilot made the right choice in landing anyway considering they had a medical issue on board.  I've flown in and out of Reno in the evening hours (usually before midnight) and it gets very calm.  There isn't a lot of commercial or GA traffic coming and going most of the night.  Honestly, I'm surprised we maintain the tower 24-hours a day.  I know there's a threshold for activity somewhere - just can't quote it at the moment.

RB
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rbrong
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2011, 06:35:06 PM »

... you also hear N20TN responding to Ops 7 (one of the ground vehicles at KRNO).  The transmission is broken since he was on the ground but it sounds like he said something along the lines of, "It doesn't seem like anybody's up there."

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tyketto
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2011, 03:42:59 AM »


Interesting to note here..

To my knowledge, Reno ATCT and TRACON are colocated together. On my tour of NCT, there wasn't a specific area at the facility for Reno. I haven't listened to the clip yet; Dave, did the controller identify themselves as Norcal Approach when the pilot called up 19.2?

BL.
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dave
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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2011, 06:25:07 AM »

Yes, NORCAL was servicing the Reno TRACON airspace during this time period.  In fact, I thought that was an after-hours thing.  But I listened during the day yesterday and heard NORCAL working that frequency.  Has the Reno TRACON been integrated into NORCAL?
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dave
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2011, 06:31:50 AM »

Hello All,

I'm the feed host for KRNO.  There wasn't anything going on with the feed setup at that hour so it should have been running throughout the incident at Reno.  The only automated procedure on the feed compute is a daily reboot at 1200Z.  That came a couple of hours after this, though, so it shouldn't have been an issue.

It's interesting to see how much stir this has caused.  The pilot made the right choice in landing anyway considering they had a medical issue on board.  I've flown in and out of Reno in the evening hours (usually before midnight) and it gets very calm.  There isn't a lot of commercial or GA traffic coming and going most of the night.  Honestly, I'm surprised we maintain the tower 24-hours a day.  I know there's a threshold for activity somewhere - just can't quote it at the moment.

RB

Thanks RB...that indicates that the pilot *possibly* dialed up the wrong frequency on his initial call to Tower.  Since there was total silence we can't blame frequency blocking.  But despite that, he made at least three calls with no response.  If I was the pilot of that Life Guard flight I don't think I would have tried that long and certainly would not have circled quite as long.  I am sure he was trying to do the right thing, as most of us try to do when we fly, and avoid any issues/enforcement actions. He was PIC - he did what he felt was right given the circumstances.  It's just that those circumstances should not have had to be in his way.

Dave
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silagi
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2011, 09:38:35 AM »

Reno Approach/Departure moved to NorCal late last year.  I believe the move coincided with the opening of the new control tower at RNO which was built without a TRACON.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2011, 09:54:19 AM by silagi » Logged
tyketto
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2011, 01:04:30 PM »

Reno Approach/Departure moved to NorCal late last year.  I believe the move coincided with the opening of the new control tower at RNO which was built without a TRACON.

This would make sense then. I forgot they were working on the new tower up there. then RNO definitely has a separate area at NCT.

Time to schedule another tour!

BL.
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rbrong
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2011, 07:11:09 PM »

Yes, NORCAL swallowed up Reno's terminal radar services a while back.  Where they are located now (physically) I'm not sure.  There are still familiar voices on those frequencies when we call them up.  

RB

p.s.  ... and, oh yeah, we do have a nice, shiny new control tower.  Fifty feet taller than the previous model built in the 50's!  grin
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tyketto
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« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2011, 12:57:30 AM »

Yes, NORCAL swallowed up Reno's terminal radar services a while back.  Where they are located now (physically) I'm not sure.  There are still familiar voices on those frequencies when we call them up.  

RB

p.s.  ... and, oh yeah, we do have a nice, shiny new control tower.  Fifty feet taller than the previous model built in the 50's!  grin

NCT is approximately 3 miles from my house, in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento). they are literally off the PAPIs for 22L/R at KMHR.

BL.
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flyflyfly
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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2011, 02:45:02 AM »

Uh, did anyone catch a recording of this incident?

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/04/19/air.traffic.controllers.movie/
Quote
Atlanta (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday announced the suspension of a Cleveland air traffic controller and a front line manager after the controller was discovered watching a movie on a portable DVD player while on the job.
...

"For a little more than three minutes, the controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the soundtrack of the movie over the radio frequency for that airspace," the statement read. "The problem was brought to air traffic control's attention by the pilot of a military aircraft using an alternate frequency."

Well, at least they didn't fall asleep...
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FebruaryXVI
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2011, 06:52:39 PM »

Thanks for the feed brong/LIVEATC  I work on the ramp at RNO and listen to the feed for a couple hours a day pretty much every day I work.  The feed is nice and clear, with the exception of planes moving around on the ramp, im guessing your scanner is out of the valley a little bit?

Also are you the same brong that works for the NWS?  If so I read your forecast discussions all the time and it looks like im stalking you.  If not, better for me that way I don't look so creepy.

Thanks again!
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