LAS VEGAS – Federal and airport authorities said Friday that they investigate why an airline was unskilled and went quiet while working a night shift alone in the tower at the bustling McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
"No security events occurred during this incident," the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement about what officials said was a 40-minute excitement in which the female controller slipped words and apparently lost consciousness shortly before midnight on Wednesday.
"An airline officer on The Las Vegas Tower was uninhabited while you were at work, says the agency. It did not identify the controller or the cause of the unauthorized use.
Airport Director Rosemary Vassiliadis issued a statement saying that the first findings claimed the FAA assessment.
Five incoming aircraft remain airborne during the event, and aircraft on the ground hold or communicate between themselves to maintain safety while moving, FAA said.
Air traffic filings available on the internet show commercial airline executives who have trouble understanding the controller during radio communications on land approaches, take-off preparations and directions. Some people begin to talk between themselves about something that's wrong.
At one point the controller sounds sleepy and sorry about the radio and says she "suffers a little." Minutes later, she misses a flight's call number. Finally, her microphone opens the sound of hosting and barbecuing.
She does not respond to a pilot's request before the sound of a male voice is heard in the room, asking if the woman is okay.
Officials said a male controller who had been in a hurry was summoned to return to the tower. Paramedics reacted.
FAA said that the woman was put on administrative leave, and the agency ordered two checkers to be in the tower during busy hours.
"FAA is deeply concerned about the incident, thoroughly investigating what happened and taking immediate steps to modify the transfer of personnel at night," said the agency's statement.
McCarran is among the top 1
National Air Traffic Management boss Paul Rinaldi issued a statement that praised the work of thousands of union members around land and promising cooperation in the FAA survey "so that all facts are known."