ATW Editor's Blog

Disturbing Vegas controller recording

by Karen Walker
Nov 09, 2018

I’m posting this blog with a link to what is believed to be a recording of the conversations between a Las Vegas tower controller and a number of pilots in an incident Nov. 7 that led to FAA issuing a new controller staffing policy today.

To be clear, I have not been able to verify the authenticity of the recording. But if you listen to it, and look at the FAA’s action today, it would appear to be the genuine recording of the incident the night of Nov. 7. And it is very disturbing.

The controller, a woman, talks with the pilots of several different airlines, including Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier and United. Her speech is slurred at times, she is clearly confused and there are multiple requests for clarification that the controller struggles to answer. At one point, she says, “sorry, I’m really choking a little bit”. Meanwhile, the pilots are clearly concerned and asking her if everything is okay, checking with other pilots how they feel about the situation, and one pilot asks if there is “anybody else out there” he can communicate with. Another pilot asks if there is a supervisor they can talk to. One pilot even asks, “is there somebody out there who knows what they are doing?” And a Frontier pilot states, “we are a little concerned about this” and informs the controller they are going to wait it out rather than land.

FAA said Nov. 9. that a Las Vegas tower controller was removed from the facility after being found incapacitated at about 11 p.m. local time on Nov. 7.

So the good news is that FAA has acted quickly. But this was clearly a very difficult and concerning incident for the pilots involved and I find this recording one of the most disturbing incidents related to the air transport industry that I have ever come across. Here’s the link.

Karen Walker

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