Planes fly in circles as air traffic controller sleeps

September 30th, 2008 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 30 (IANS) Two planes were forced to fly in circles over the Greek island of Lesbos awaiting landing clearance for about 40 minutes as the air traffic controller was fast asleep, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.The pilots of the planes, an Olympic Airlines aircraft arriving from the Greek capital Athens and a Slovakian Airlines plane, made several failed attempts Monday morning to get in touch with the control tower.

But there was no response from the control tower for more than half-an-hour that forced the two planes to wait in the skies over the Aegean sea.

Speaking about the incident, a police official at the airport in Lesbos said: “They (the pilots) were calling the tower to get directions, but no one would answer.”

“The woman (the air traffic controller) later said she overslept,” the police official said, adding that the traffic controller, who was not named, would be suspended for a few days.

According to the police, the secondary control service of the airport assisted the pilots to land their planes after 40 minutes.

The news comes a few days after a pair of pilots working for the Hawaiian airlines Go were fired for sleeping through the plane’s landing procedure, the newspaper said.

The pair had not responded to nearly a dozen calls from controllers in the space of just 17 minutes.

“I’m worried he might be in an emergency situation,” the controller said to another pilot, in recordings leaked to the press.

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