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FAA Gives Air Controllers New Procedures

A passenger jet flies past the FAA control tower at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, March 24, 2011

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has issued new procedures after two airplanes landed at a Washington airport without assistance because the lone overnight air traffic controller had fallen asleep.

The FAA is now requiring regional radar facilities to alert controllers working alone in a tower that a plane is approaching. It says regional controllers can give pilots the option of flying to another airport if they are unable to make contact with an airport tower.

The Wednesday incident at Reagan National Airport raised concerns about staffing the tower with one air traffic controller. In response, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered a second controller be added to the overnight shift at Reagan National and an examination of staffing at airport control towers elsewhere in the U.S.

The controller who fell asleep on the job has been suspended, pending an investigation.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.