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Author Topic: DCA Unmanned tower  (Read 22167 times)
mk223
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« on: March 23, 2011, 07:33:29 PM »

I just edited this together from the tower feed, at the end you can hear the controller come back from whatever he was doing (although by end of the clip, the audio has a lot of feedback but you can make out the controller when he returns).


* dca unmanned.mp3 (2880.43 KB - downloaded 7432 times.)
« Last Edit: March 24, 2011, 11:38:18 AM by mk223 » Logged

alltheway
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2011, 07:53:42 PM »

 huh That's going to be a huge minus ( - ) for the controller....
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StuSEL
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2011, 09:26:37 PM »

It's obviously not just the controller, but also the supervisor and the rest of the staff that should have been in at that time. How weird...
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CFII
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2011, 09:32:14 PM »

Disregard. The Washington Post says it was a supervisor shift, where nobody else was there. I didn't even know that could happen.
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CFII
greenfieldwi
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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2011, 10:22:34 PM »

I'll bet it doesn't happen again after this!  wink
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buff4bcs1985
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 02:31:09 AM »

oops
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flyflyfly
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2011, 03:42:21 AM »

Disregard. The Washington Post says it was a supervisor shift, where nobody else was there.

Whatever they did, someone will get a huge minus for this...
Did anyone record the ATC before the controller came back online?

Potomac: Just so you’re aware, the tower is apparently not manned. We’ve made a few phone calls. No one’s answered. … So you can expect to go in as an uncontrolled airport.
American 1900: Is there a reason it’s not manned?
Potomac: I’m going to take a guess and say that the controller got locked out. I’ve heard of this happening before.
http://blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace/2011/03/23/the-tower-is-apparently-not-manned-washington-post/

http://www.seattlepi.com/national/1110ap_us_airport_tower.html
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uplink
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2011, 07:36:33 AM »

Was that the tower channel of the archive on the recording?  Seem like the signal is barely breaking his squelch on that feed.







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mk223
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« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2011, 08:39:35 AM »

I pulled this from the Tower/Approach feed for DCA.
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Dngnkeeper
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« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2011, 10:35:36 AM »

A report from CNN with a liveATC.net credit for the audio.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/03/23/washington.planes.controllers/index.html?hpt=T2

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Wednesday ordered the FAA to schedule two controllers on the overnight shift."
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Dan CZQM
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« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2011, 01:37:59 PM »

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/03/24/dc.air.traffic.suspension/index.html?hpt=T2

WOW!  Quite neat to hear.  Usually you hear Cessnas do the uncontrolled airport landing, but to hear commercial traffic it's just weird. 

I think those airline pilots didn't figure they would ever have to use that phraseology again.

Nice capture.

Dan
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Dan
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svoynick
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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2011, 02:02:37 PM »

Starting at about 2:42, it sounds like one of the landed aircraft is checking back in with the now-present controller, trying to make sure the controller knows the pilots were trying to do the right thing, given the circumstances.   Am I hearing this right?

AIrcraft:  "Yeah I just wanna make sure that uh, we're not gonna have a problem.  Approach told us that you were unmanned, so that's why we made our, uh... our calls for turning base and landing. And uh, apparently you were, and so are we gonna have a problem with this?"

Tower:  <unintelligible>  Say again, sir?

Aircraft:  <unintelligible>  give you a call...

Tower:   <reading numbers..>

 
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mk223
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« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2011, 02:38:48 PM »

That sounds about right, I will see if I can clear that up a little but later on tonight.
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alltheway
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« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2011, 05:54:40 PM »

Quote from the Avherald site "On Mar 24th the NTSB reported, the controller in question had 20 years of experience, 17 thereof at Washington National Airport, admitted in an interview that he had fallen asleep. This had been his fourth consecutive overnight shift, the NTSB is looking into human fatigue issues."

So it's true what Bloomberg wrote....

Second quote:

"By JB Pilot on Thursday, Mar 24th 2011 21:34Z


Sir I have been an airline pilot for 20 years, flying for 3 different 121 air carriers, the most current being JetBlue Airways. There is no FAR requirement for air traffic control services as a condition for airport operations for 121 air carriers. I have flown into dozens of airports on the Eastern seaboard, without ATC. PHF, SBY, BTV, HPN, PWM, ILM, just to name a few, are all airports I have operated to without an operating control tower. Air Carrier OPS Specs clearly authorize these operations, and set forth the procedures that must be followed for operating at an airport without an operating control tower.
Sorry, but just because the tower closes, does not mean all air carrier operations cease. It is done every day, safe and sound and legal"

So it seems not to be an issue at all ?

http://www.avherald.com/h?article=439ce8f9&opt=0
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VictorK
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2011, 09:56:02 PM »

Quote
This had been his fourth consecutive overnight shift, the NTSB is looking into human fatigue issues."

To me, that makes it sound even worse.

When I first heard the story, I assumed that it was a case of something like a quick turn. A 6 am shift, followed by the mid that night. IIRC, at Lexington, the controller was said to have possibly been fatigued because he'd had only a few hours sleep between shifts. If this guy was on his forth mid of the week, he had three days where he had all day to get some sleep.

Quote
So it seems not to be an issue at all ?

I think the Washington Post article (linked in the opening post of this thread), did a good job outlining one possible issue:

Quote
The greatest risk posed by silence from the tower was on the ground rather than in the air. Planes routinely land in smaller airports without guidance from a tower.

In a circumstance like the one that occurred at National, pilots get on the control tower radio frequency and relay their position, speed and distance to other pilots as they approach and land.

“So, other airplanes would know, ‘Okay, he’s clear of the runway, so I’m good to go,’ ” said the source familiar with tower operations.

On the ground, however, the slow nighttime hours are when maintenance crews crisscross the runway — sometimes towing planes — as they prepare for the next morning.

“There are people in the control tower for a reason,” the source said. “There’s a whole lot of activity going on during the night.”

Those maintenance workers contact the tower on a special frequency to get clearance before crossing a runway. Inbound pilots contact the tower on a different frequency.

At airports where the tower shuts down for the night, ground crews and incoming pilots are required to use the same radio frequency to coordinate their actions.
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uplink
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« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2011, 03:09:14 AM »

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/03/24/dc.air.traffic.suspension/index.html?hpt=T2

WOW!  Quite neat to hear.  Usually you hear Cessnas do the uncontrolled airport landing, but to hear commercial traffic it's just weird. 

I think those airline pilots didn't figure they would ever have to use that phraseology again.

Nice capture.

Dan

If you take a redeye flight back home from Kauai (PHLI) after 10pm local, your commercial (American Airlines, Aloha, Hawaiian etc) pilot will be using the same phraseology, the tower is closed.


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TC
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2011, 01:56:55 PM »

[quote“There are people in the control tower for a reason,” the source said. “There’s a whole lot of activity going on during the night.”

Those maintenance workers contact the tower on a special frequency to get clearance before crossing a runway. Inbound pilots contact the tower on a different frequency.

At airports where the tower shuts down for the night, ground crews and incoming pilots are required to use the same radio frequency to coordinate their actions.[/quote]

Exactly.  This was not a case of an uncontrolled field at all.  I've worked at HVN when the tower closed at 10PM local and there were procedures in place when the tower was closed, CTAF announced on the atis, etc.  I work many, many mids at BOS.  The pilots who landed had NO WAY of knowing or guaranteeing the runway was clear.  NONE!  Announcing their intent and when they cleared didn't guarantee squat.  It was pure luck and God's good grace that no electrician or mechanic or other airport worker was on the runway.  Shame on the front line manager for falling asleep, and SHAME ON THE PILOTS who landed without a clearance.  An absence of a radio transmission does not an uncontrolled field make
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SirIsaac787
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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2011, 02:59:22 PM »

If this guy was on his forth mid of the week, he had three days where he had all day to get some sleep.

It isn't normal for the human brain to be sleeping during daylight hours.  Doing so takes a lot of adjustment and really puts the internal mechanism out of whack.  If he didn't have this shift in a while and all of a sudden gets these midnight shifts, it could be very difficult for him to get sleep in during the day.  It can take a week or longer for that adjustment (sleeping during day and working at night) to occur.
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alltheway
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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2011, 04:16:24 PM »

Well what I wrote one page back about a huge minus means -

Pilots were expecting to land on a controlled airport and all of a sudden it turned out to be uncontrolled, so procedures did kick in, but it is way beyond expectation... And for the human nature you start wondering WHY is it uncontrolled, WHAT has happened to the controller ect.....

And with all the WHY's and How's  going on in your mind at the crucial moment of landing caused the AA to go around and after contacting the TRACON they still didn't had it clear what was going on, again wondering if tower at landing phase now would be responding....

Very distracting...

Just can't imagine what would have happened when a airplane is on final approach and trying to contact tower, switching back to TRACON and than something like this would happen : http://www.avherald.com/h?article=421fb65e&opt=0
« Last Edit: March 27, 2011, 05:33:35 AM by alltheway » Logged
VictorK
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« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2011, 09:06:40 AM »

If this guy was on his forth mid of the week, he had three days where he had all day to get some sleep.

It isn't normal for the human brain to be sleeping during daylight hours.  Doing so takes a lot of adjustment and really puts the internal mechanism out of whack.  If he didn't have this shift in a while and all of a sudden gets these midnight shifts, it could be very difficult for him to get sleep in during the day.  It can take a week or longer for that adjustment (sleeping during day and working at night) to occur.


Controllers deal with these shift changes for their entire careers.

This fellow fell asleep very early in the shift, and within nine minutes of making the last transmission prior to 1012's attempt to reach him. While I don't disagree that the body wants to sleep at night rather than during the day, it normally manifests itself as simply not being as sharp as usual; NOT as falling sound asleep, and sleeping through multiple radio transmissions and ringing phones. And with 20 years experience, this controller must surely be familiar with how his own body deals with such shift changes, and has learned how to cope with them.

I suspect that we'll be told there's some underlying medical reason for this incident.

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