The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 16, 2013

Report: FAA investigating W.Va. controller

CHARLESTON — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating two alleged incidents involving an air traffic controller at Yeager Airport and has removed him from his duties.

The FAA is proposing that he be fired for failing to respond while on duty, the Charleston Daily Mail reported Saturday. The controller who is the focus of the investigation has not been identified.

In one alleged incident, the controller was unresponsive for 20 minutes while a HealthNet helicopter was trying to land at a local hospital. Officials said the pilot had to use alternate methods to get the patient to medical care.

That incident reportedly occurred in January.

The other alleged incident occurred March 2 when two air traffic employees said they saw the controller sleeping while he was supposed to be working in the tower.

The first reported incident involved a HealthNet helicopter coming into the Charleston area from central West Virginia with a critical patient headed for Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital, said David Cross, HealthNet’s director of business development.

The pilot radioed the control tower at Yeager as he approached to notify air traffic controllers and sought permission to continue. The pilot received no response.

Cross said the pilot and flight crew made multiple attempts to contact the tower at Yeager but had no luck.

“They were obviously confused as to why nobody was answering,” Cross said.

The pilot continued in a straight line to the hospital’s landing pad, where they came down safely and delivered the critical patient, who by that time was stabilized.

“At no time was the aircraft or crew or patient in any danger,” said Clinton Burley, HealthNet’s president and chief executive officer.

 

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