Air Traffic Controller Drunk on the Job?

8:20 AM, Jul 19, 2011   |    comments
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(CBS News) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an air traffic controller for allegedly working while drunk at an air traffic center in Longmont, Colorado, an FAA official confirms to CBS News.

The unidentified controller, reportedly a veteran and former union rep, was allegedly six hours into his shift July 5 when a random drug and alcohol test administered onsite showed his blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit for ATC employees on the job, which is .04, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

The legal limit for driving is .08, but the rules for the people in charge of guiding thousands of flights across U.S. air space in real-time are stricter.

"The controller in question is not working air traffic. We are investigating the incident," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FAA official would not disclose specifics, such as the controller's specific blood-alcohol level in the test.

If the allegations against him are true, it's just the latest in a string of disturbing incidents.

Earlier this year, at least nine controllers were investigated for various transgressions. Among them:

--> Feb. 19 - a controller was found intentionally sleeping in the radar room in Knoxville, Tenn., forcing colleagues to assume his duties. That offender has since been fired.

--> March 23 - a controller at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., is suspended for failure to respond to two incoming planes. The 20-year veteran working on four consecutive overnight shifts told investigators he inadvertently fell asleep.

--> April 11 - the controller at Seattle's Boeing field was terminated after twice falling asleep on duty. The next day a controller found sleeping in the tower at Reno-Tahoe International Airport while a medical flight tried to reach him. Eventually a regional controller stepped in to guide the traffic.

According to ABC affiliate KMGH, which first reported the story, the Colorado controller's family has said he's undergoing alcohol addiction treatment, and has been told by the FAA he may be reemployed, at some level, once that treatment is complete.

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