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Residents & Lawmakers React To FAA Adding Air Traffic Controllers

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News
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A picture taken of Air Traffic Controllers as they monitor flight traffic in a control tower. (credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture taken of Air Traffic Controllers as they monitor flight traffic in a control tower. (credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Lupe Johnson has lived in her Northside apartment under the flight path to Meacham International Airport for 40 years.

“It sounds so loud and so low, it brings thoughts to me sometimes, oh, kind of dangerous,” she said.

Johnson said she is concerned with recent reports from other airports across the country that accuse air traffic controllers of falling asleep on the job overnight.

“A lot could happen,” she said.

There haven’t been any such problems reported at Meacham Airport. But the Federal Aviation Agency is adding a second air traffic controller on the midnight shift there and at 26 other towers nationwide.

This comes after the latest incident the FAA says happened overnight Wednesday. An air traffic controller at Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe International Airport fell asleep while a medical flight tried to land.

According to the website LiveATC.net, which provides live feeds from air traffic control towers, the pilot radioed the tower and said, “We’ve got a pretty sick patient, we may just need to land.”

But no one in the Reno tower responded. CBS 11 News has learned the FAA also suspended two controllers at Lubbock’s airport.

The FAA said during the early morning hours of March 29, the controllers “failed to hand off control of a departing private plane to the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center.”

That center handles high-altitude aircraft over North and West Texas. The FAA also says it took repeated attempts for a controller at the Fort Worth Center to make contact with the Lubbock controllers to hand off an incoming private plane.

But some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are criticizing the FAA’s plan.

John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the FAA is misdirecting needed resources to smaller airports with little-or-no oversight traffic, when they should be doing the opposite and sending them to bigger and busier airports.

Johnson, though, supports the FAA’s decision.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “My feeling is we’ll be safer.”

Meacham joins DFW, Love Field and Alliance Airports, which already have at least two air traffic controllers working overnight. The local air traffic controllers union did not return calls requesting comment.

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