Posted by: Jeff Rhodes | March 25, 2011

Don’t Sleep Through an Opportunity to Show Professionalism

The clip below is a recent news story on an incident that occurred at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington.

It tells the harrowing tale of loaded airliners forced to land in the world’s most security sensitive airport, just miles from thousands of unsuspecting civilians and the nation’s capital, without any assistance from the tower – completely on their own – while the lone controller slept at his post due to overwhelming fatigue. Or at least that how the AP wanted it to sound – especially in the “teasers” leading up to the actual story.  

Aviators know that it really isn’t a big deal and that procedures are in place to handle these types of situations. The flights continued to communicate with the approach controller and then landed at a near-deserted DCA at midnight the same way they would have at thousands of other part-time towered and uncontrolled airports around the country.  The flight crews involved probably discussed it with a “that was interesting” tone and drove home without giving it a lot more thought. The event will probably be classified as an “incident” and the controller involved will most likely be reprimanded – and it will end there.

But the news media competes for viewership like the corner store competes for your grocery business. They HAVE to offer something that you will watch. And nothing sells like aviation disaster! It has an “it could happen to you” feel that other news can’t replicate.

As professional aviators, we have to realize that this sensationalism, if not properly dealt with, can be a risk to our livelihoods. Media stories paint a real picture in the minds of the flying public. Stories like this create an image of a bungling, wild-west system that is ripe for error. Corporate operators and air taxi providers should avoid the quick dismissal of these types of perceptions and take the opportunity to educate their passengers, bosses, and clients about the way the system really works. Demonstrate a system of safeguards and control. This will empower the GIB (Guys In Back) and solidify your position as an important part of their transportation plan.

Don’t dismiss – EDUCATE.


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