(RENO, Nev.) -- For the third time in less than two months an air traffic controller was caught sleeping on the job while a plane carrying a critically ill patient was trying to land.
The controller at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is believed to have nodded off on Wednesday morning and was out of communication for approximately 16 minutes. The controller was the only one on duty handling the few overnight arrivals and departures.
An aircraft transporting a critically ill patient was unable to reach the Reno tower during it's approach, but the pilot was in communication with the Northern California Terminal Radar Control and ultimately landed safely without assistance from the tower.
In response to the incident the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation announced that an additional air traffic controller will be immediately added on the midnight shift at 27 control towers that currently have only one person working overnights.
"I am totally outraged by these incidents. This is absolutely unacceptable," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected."
In February a controller in Knoxville, Tenn., deliberately went to sleep on the job during a midnight shift. Sources told ABC News that the controller made a bed on the floor of the control tower with couch pillows.
And last month at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport a controller on his fourth consecutive overnight shift left the radio tower silent after apparently falling asleep. Two commercial airliners were forced to land on their own.
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