Al Marsh

Controller warns of abandoned Reagan tower

March 24, 2011 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

We still haven’t heard from the FAA yet as to why Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s tower didn’t answer aircraft and controllers who called it two nights ago. Until we find out, here’s a tape of conversation between a controller and an aircraft arriving in the Washington, D.C., area about the silent tower. (UPDATE: Investigators have learned the single controller in the tower cab that night was asleep.)  Two airliners landed using uncontrolled field procedures. This third one narrowly escaped having to do the same. You have to wait through a commercial, first, before the tape begins.

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6 Responses to “Controller warns of abandoned Reagan tower”

  1. Mike M Says:

    You can get it on’s interesting recordings as well, although it is really really quiet.

  2. Al Marsh Says:

    Can you give us the link to the actual recording here? That way our readers will have two choices.

  3. Paul Says:

    Here is the LiveATC audio:;topic=8753.0;attach=5614

    You may need to register (free) to download it.

  4. Wayne Conrad Says:

    I don’t understand the parting comment from the pilot, “That was close.” What was close? Having to land without tower control? Not that controllers falling asleep is something we want, but it looks to me like the system worked fine and safety wasn’t materially impacted. Perhaps that was at the end of a long trip, and maybe a bit irritable to begin with.

  5. Al Marsh Says:

    Wayne, I got the same impression. The pilot meant, as you said, that it “was close” that he nearly had to land without a tower operator.

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