And when Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union, he also eviscerated the worker protections that prevent things like this from happening:
WASHINGTON – Air traffic safety is under increased scrutiny by federal authorities following an incident in which two passenger jets landed without controller assistance at Reagan National Airport because no one could be reached in the airport tower.
An aviation official said that an air traffic supervisor — the lone controller on duty around midnight on Tuesday when the incident occurred — had fallen asleep. The official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because an investigation is ensuing, said the incident has led the Federal Aviation Administration to launch a nationwide inquiry into airport tower staffing issues.
Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the pilots of the two planes were in contact with controllers at a regional Federal Aviation Administration facility about 40 miles away in Warrenton, Va.
He said that after pilots were unable to raise the airport tower at Reagan by radio, they asked controllers in Warrenton to call the tower. Repeated calls from the regional facility to the tower went unanswered, Knudson added.
Responding to the incident, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that he has directed FAA to put two air traffic controllers on the midnight shift at Reagan National.
“It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space,” LaHood said.
Reagan National is located in Northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington. LaHood also said he has directed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study tower staffing at other airports around the country.
Good thing this happened in D.C., where Very Important People care about their planes landing safely. Maybe even the rest of us will benefit from this cost-cutting clusterfuck.