Sleeping air traffic controllers lead to questions - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Sleeping air traffic controllers lead to questions in Myrtle Beach

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Only two weeks after a plane was left circling at Reagan National Airport, another report surfaces of a controller found sleeping while on the job.

The FAA says it happened in February, when an employee intentionally took a nap at the airport in Knoxville, Tennessee.

WMBFNews wanted to know what's being done to make sure no one dozes off at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Most of these incidents occurred during the midnight shift at the control tower.

A spokesperson for the FAA says, at the Myrtle Beach International Airport, there is no midnight shift. They say there simply aren't enough planes that fly in at night for them to keep the tower open.

In Myrtle Beach, the control tower closes at 11:00 p.m. and opens back up at 6:00 a.m., when most of flights fly in and out.

The FAA says most airports in the country are like this, but passengers like Rosalind Welch say, whatever the shift, that person needs to be alert.

"If your job is to stay awake at night, then you need to stay awake at night," said Welch.

Mike Livesay, a former air traffic controller says it's common for airports the size of Myrtle Beach to remain unstaffed overnight. He says it is safe for smaller airports that don't see lots of air traffic.

"There are very specific rules and regulations and guidelines for pilots to follow in the event they lose communication with their air traffic control tower, or if the tower's not staffed, and those rules are safe," said Livesay.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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