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Denver Center Air Traffic Controller Drunk on Job in Alcohol Test

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigates an air traffic controller who's allegedly not only drunk on the job--but actively working at the air traffic Denver Center in Longmont, Colorado, when getting popped by a random drug and alcohol test. The employee's been in rehab since the incident. The July 5 bust marks investigation #9 this year for air control--in what reveals a serious safety problem.
Apparently the veteran and former union rep wasn't expecting the random drug and alcohol test administered onsite, halfway through his July 5 shift. The air traffic controller failed the random test which helps monitor the requirement of a blood alcohol limit is 0.02 or below for ATC employees. The FAA refuses to disclose the controller's blood alcohol level revealed by the testing.
Air traffic controllers for the Colorado area are responsible for covering 300,000 square miles in 9 states. It all follows scandals where air traffic controllers have been found asleep on the job, among other scandals in recent months.
For the FAA, it seems, it's good enough he's gone: "The controller in question is not working air traffic." The FAA says: "We take our responsibility of ensuring aviation safety very seriously. That includes acting professionally in all that we do. Thus, this incident is deeply troubling. We do not condone the alleged conduct at Denver Center currently under investigation. We are proud of our safety record both there and at every facility and will continue to work to keep our airspace system the world's safest," Paul Rinaldi, president of the NATCA, said in a statement.
Well, then, everyone can breath easy. Or not. Nine air traffic controllers have been investigated in 2011 -- the latest Denver Center incident marks the sixth serious problem with air traffic controllers nationwide, in less than five months. And those are just the ones the nation knows about:
In February 2011 an air traffic controller was discovered sleeping on the job intentionally, caught napping in a Knoxville, Tennessee, radar room -- and later fired.
In March 2011 an air traffic controller at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., got suspended but -- scary enough -- not fired for failing to respond to not one but two incoming planes. The controller told investigators he'd fallen asleep on the job.
In April 2011 a controller at Seattle's Boeing field was fired after falling asleep on job -- probably because it was the second occurrence of being asleep while on duty. Just one day later in April 2011, an air traffic controller was discovered asleep in the Reno-Tahoe International Airport tower -- all while a medical flight was trying desperately to reach him in transporting a sick patient. And, yet again in April 2011, a Cleveland air traffic controller, responsible for directing flights over the center of the nation, got suspended for watching a movie on the job.
Simultaneously the airline and related industries have had increasing safety issues popping up this year in 2011. Two high-profile, national runway accidents have occurred less than three months apart: One New York, April 2011 runway collision at JFK Airport between Delta and Air France planes -- the other a July 2011 runway accident involving two Delta-operated planes at Boston's Logan Airport that collided. Those both happened while planes were still on the ground.
Then there's the infamous, pilot's open-mic rant by Southwest's James Taylor in March 2011 that turned into a call for a Southwest Airlines boycott after the airline refused to fire its pilot who bashed gays and fat women including co-workers.
And then there's been the recent surge in power plays with airlines and the customers who pay to fly on them. It seems the most recent trend is either arresting or highly embarrassing your own customer. Southwest Airlines recently yanked a Muslim woman off a San Diego (CA) plane in error and caused her to burst into tears over what appears to be a flight attendant's hearing issue, while a college football player was arrested by a U.S. Airways pilot in San Jose (CA) over sagging pants after attending his best friend's funeral service.
Reportedly the Denver Center, Colorado, air traffic controller who just failed the random drug and alcohol test is currently -- or has been -- undergoing rehab for alcohol addiction treatment related to the July 5 bust. Supposedly that air traffic employee's been told by the FAA there's a shot at him being re-employed -- after his alcohol treatment program is complete.
It's great to offer second chances -- just not in a position where other peoples' lives are at stake.


National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)
1325 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
United States
Phone: (202) 628-5451
Fax: (202) 628-5767
38° 54' 19.2096" N, 77° 1' 49.53" W
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
United States
Phone: (866) 835-5322
38° 53' 14.1936" N, 77° 1' 22.8504" W
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