Las Vegas Sun

December 16, 2018

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Officials: Las Vegas air controller who went silent has resigned

Airplanes

Steve Marcus

The new Federal Aviation Administration tower, left, is shown at McCarran International Airport Tuesday, August 2, 2016.

LAS VEGAS — An air traffic controller who became incapacitated during a solo stint on a night shift in the tower at busy McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas last week has quit, authorities said Tuesday.

The unidentified controller was no longer employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency said in a statement.

The controller resigned Sunday, said Benjamin Rosenbaum, an aide to U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada. Titus is a member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation and represents Las Vegas.

The congresswoman said Friday she wanted answers after an initial briefing about what she called the "deeply disturbing" Wednesday night incident. She did not immediately make details public.

Officials have not identified the controller or said what caused her to slur words during communications with pilots over a 40-minute span before the FAA said she "became incapacitated while on duty" and apparently lost consciousness shortly before midnight.

Five inbound aircraft remained airborne, and aircraft on the ground held positions or communicated between themselves, the FAA said.

The agency and the airport declared that no "safety events" occurred during the incident.

Air traffic recordings available on the internet show commercial airline pilots had trouble understanding the controller during radio communications about approaches to land, clearances to take off and directions for taxiing.

Minutes later, her microphone opens to the sound of coughing and grunting. Another controller was summoned from break to take over in the tower, and paramedics responded.

The FAA has since ordered two controllers to be in the tower during most hours at McCarran, which ranks among the 10 busiest airports in the U.S. in passenger volume.