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Air traffic controllers napping: Landing aborted after 3 unanswered tower calls

Air traffic controllers nap, pilot aborts flight after he can't get a hold of snoozing folks in control tower.
Air traffic controllers nap, pilot aborts flight after he can't get a hold of snoozing folks in control tower.
Wikimedia Commons

When air traffic controllers nap while on duty, nothing good can come of this. A passenger plane coming in for a landing had to abort the landing. They were forced to climb back up to 3,000-feet when the pilot's three attempts to contact air traffic control was to no avail, as they were snoozing, according to Business Insider on Aug 19.

A China Eastern Airlines Corp was already in its descent when there was no answer from the control tower. It was a red-eye flight, so the wee hours of the morning found the tower occupants fighting to stay awake and it looks as if they lost that battle.

Yahoo News reports that the incident occurred between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., which is a sleepy time of the day even for someone whose job depends on staying alert. Unfortunately there was a plane full of passengers counting on someone minding the store.

The duty flight controllers at Wuhan Tianhe Airport missed three calls from the cockpit crew. They repeated their request to land twice in English and once in Chinese, all three times they got nothing but silence from the tower. It was 10 minutes before the plane was due to touchdown, so the plane had to ascend again.

This incident occurred on July 8, but the investigation was just completed and their findings just released. While the controllers napping was no reflection on this airline, China Eastern has had a few mishaps in recent months. A week after this incident a China Eastern plane landed in the southwest city of Nanning off the runway.

Three days later another China Eastern plane touched down and veered off the runway at Changzhi Airport in Shanxi province. There were no injuries in either of the mishaps.

It is not known what the consequences were for falling asleep at the helm in the air traffic control tower, or if there were any at all. Naps are a good thing, but there are certain professions where you just can’t nap while in the middle of your work. Besides air traffic controllers, you wouldn’t want to see your surgeon nap while you were on the table.

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