Controller Relieved from Duty after Failing Alcohol Test

Episode is the latest in a slew of ATC incidents.

Tower Big
Tower Big

Just when it appeared as though the glare of public scrutiny had shifted away from air traffic controllers, the FAA now says it is investigating “the possibility” of a tipsy controller who failed an alcohol test six hours into his eight-hour shift at the Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center on July 5.

The FAA has not disclosed the controller’s specific blood-alcohol level or name, confirming only that he failed a random drug and alcohol test and that he is not working his controller shifts. ABC News quoted a family member as saying the controller was offered the choice of resigning or entering a rehabilitation program, and that he chose rehab. The legal blood-alcohol level for controllers is .02 percent.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, called the incident "deeply troubling."

"We do not condone what is now being investigated to have taken place at Denver Center," Rinaldi said in a statement. "We are proud of our safety record both there and at every facility and will continue to work to keep our airspace system the world's safest."

Several incidents involving air traffic controllers falling asleep on duty earlier this year sparked widespread calls for reform and increased oversight. Hank Krakowski, who served as the FAA's air traffic control chief, resigned in April.