The air traffic supervisor at Washington-Reagan National Airport was asleep at the time that two airliners landed there without control tower clearance, officials said on Wednesday night.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered that two air traffic controllers be on duty at the airport late at night following the incident, and that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator study tower staffing at other U.S. airports.
The incident occurred around midnight Tuesday, and the National Transportation Safety Board was considering whether to open a formal investigation, board spokesman Peter Knudson said.
After the pilots of the two commercial planes were unable to reach the tower at Washington-Reagan National, they communicated with a regional air traffic control facility in Warrenton, Virginia, about 40 miles from the airport, Knudson said.
The planes involved were American Airlines flight 1012 and United Airlines flight 628T, he said.
The FAA released a statement saying it was “looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriately.”