Hey Tower You There? | All Quiet at Reagan National as Planes Attempt to Land

National to add second controller overnight after tower goes silent

Ashley Halsey III | The Washington Post

The control tower at Reagan National Airport went silent early Wednesday, forcing two airliners carrying a total of 165 passengers and crew to land on their own.

The tower did not respond to pilot requests for landing assistance or to phone calls from controllers elsewhere in the region, who also used a “shout line” which pipes into a loudspeaker in the tower, internal records show.

An American Airlines Boeing 737 flying in from Miami with 97 on board aborted its landing and circled the airport after getting no response from the tower at midnight. Minutes later a United Airlines Airbus 320 flying in from Chicago with 68 passengers and crew also received no answer from the tower.

Both planes landed safely after their pilots took matters into their own hands, broadcasting their progress as they approached and landed. They were also communicating with controllers at a separate facility in the region that does not handle landings.

“Today I directed the FAA to place two air traffic controllers at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s control tower on the midnight shift,” LaHood said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

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