U.S. aviation authorities Thursday suspended an air traffic controller suspected of falling asleep on the job and forcing two planes to land without guidance at Washington's Reagan National airport.
The pilots of the American Airlines Boeing 737 flight from Miami and the United Airlines Airbus 320 from Chicago, carrying a total of 165 passengers and crew, tried frantically to contact the control tower, but to no avail.
The American Airlines pilot contacted the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility 40 miles (64 kilometers) away in Virginia as he circled the airport after midnight on Wednesday trying to keep passengers calm, according to Naharnet.
The incident comes nearly five years after a fatal crash in Kentucky where a controller was working alone. Accident investigators said that controller was most likely suffering from fatigue, although they placed responsibility for the crash that took 46 lives on the pilots.
Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt said he was investigating the incident, but he also said that at "no point was either plane out of radar contact, and our back-up system kicked in to ensure the safe landing of both airplanes."
The National Transportation Safety Board has opened its own investigation, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has added yet another investigation, Jamestown Sun reports.