Many people are rethinking taking a “red-eye” of other late-night commercial airline flights after an air traffic controller’s shocking reveal that many airport control towers shut down in the overnight hours!
Newsweek reported about an anonymous “aviation professional” who posted a response to a TikTok user’s question, “name one thing in your industry or profession that the general public would be shocked to know about.”
One terribly disturbing reply was, “I’m an air traffic controller. There are about 139 federal standalone air traffic control towers in the United States,” he said. “I work at one. And every night, 84 of those—about 60 percent—shut down. And all the controllers go home, and there’s nobody there to work traffic, and then they come back in the morning and reopen.”
Finally, the poster said, “During those hours, when the control tower is closed, it’s the pilots’ responsibility to talk to other pilots and make sure that they’re not going to hit each other.”
The stunning details took much of his viewers, with many commenting that this inside view of air traffic control would alter their flying patterns.
“I guess I’m never taking a red-eye again!!” one viewer exclaimed.
“I am, indeed, SHOCKED to know this,” another said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told Newsweek in a statement, “If an air traffic control tower is closed, it is usually during hours where there is limited or no air traffic. Every air traffic control facility has standard procedures to operate safely when it’s closed.”
The FAA added that facilities called Terminal Radar Approach Controls (TRACONs) direct pilots until they reach their final approaches to airports where control towers are closed.
“Once they’re in the tower’s airspace, pilots know to communicate their positions on the airport’s common frequency,” a spokesperson said.
The FAA would not confirm what proportion of air traffic control towers shut down at night.
Air traffic controllers have raised the alarm about their staffing conditions in the past.
A partial government shutdown in January 2019 forced controllers to work long hours without payment, according to the National Air Traffic Controller Association. Employees also worried about safety, saying that a new text messaging system to communicate directly with pilots in the cockpit was stalled by the shutdown.
In 2018, an air traffic controller became “incapacitated” while working alone during a busy shift at the Las Vegas airport. The controller slurred her words in communication with 29 pilots both in air and on the ground for about 40 minutes before losing consciousness.
In response, the FAA modified its staffing rules to require two controllers in a tower “until a certain time,” according to KSVN-TV.
Upon question by Newsweek as to what that “certain time” is, the agency said that two controllers would not be required to work after midnight, telling the magazine that “facilities will not combine to one position prior to midnight or 90 minutes after the start of the shift, whichever is later.”
Newsweek reached out to the TikToker, @doaviation, for comment, but he did not respond.