Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gotta go, Gotta go, Gotta go right now

Two Southwest Airlines flights were forced to circle Manchester-Boston Regional Airport last Friday when the lone air traffic controller on duty had to go to the bathroom, raising concerns about staffing at the airport's control tower.
The Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday that another air traffic controller was in the tower at the time but was not fully certified to land the planes.
The event forced flights from Chicago and Orlando, Fla., to delay their landings by 18 minutes, although both planes landed ahead of schedule. The tower was unoccupied for about 12 minutes.
In addition, the event delayed the takeoff of a medical flight carrying human lungs to a New Jersey airport for an eventual transplant.
When the pilot of the Teterboro, N.J.-bound medical flight contacted the tower in Manchester, N.H. , "the trainee [in the tower] informed the pilot he would have to wait 10 minutes until the controller returned to the tower," read an e-mail from the controllers' union.
"The pilot replied that he had 'lungs on board. Is there anything you can do?' The trainee said no."

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