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Control Tower Supervisor Suspended After DC Airport Incidents

The control tower at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., near Washington, DC, March 23, 2011

The top U.S. aviation official has suspended a control tower supervisor after two passenger jets had to land at a Washington airport without guidance from the tower.

The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Randy Babbitt, said Thursday he was "personally outraged" by the incidents. He said both planes were in radar contact and that back-up systems ensured the safe landing of the two aircraft.

The American Airlines and United Airlines aircraft tried contacting the control tower at Washington's Reagan National Airport within a 15-minute period early Wednesday. Neither plane received any response and the pilots were forced to land the jets without assistance from anyone in the tower. The pilots received help from controllers at a regional facility 64 kilometers away.

Babbitt said an investigation is under way. Aviation officials speaking on condition of anonymity told U.S. media Thursday the lone air traffic controller may have been asleep.

As a result of the incidents, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood directed the FAA to have two controllers staff the tower at the Reagan National airport during the overnight shift. He said having just one controller on duty was not acceptable.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.