The Federal Aviation Administration is taking new steps to fix problems in the nation's air traffic control system.
This week, it fired two controllers for sleeping on the job and ordered a higher level of supervision over aircraft carrying the Vice President or First Lady.
On Monday, a plane carrying First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, experienced an aborted landing at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington. The FAA says the Boeing 737, which belongs to the Air National Guard, came within three miles of a massive C-17 cargo plane as the planes were approaching Andrews to land. From now on, the FAA says that all flights carrying Mrs. Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will be handled by an air traffic supervisor rather than a controller.
The new air traffic rules come as the FAA struggles to reassure the public that air travel is safe. The agency has been shaken by a series of embarrassing incidents, including five cases of controllers falling asleep on the job. The first occurred last month at Reagan National Airport.
On Wednesday, two more air traffic controllers were fired for just that. According to the FAA, they were assigned to radar facilities in Miami and Knoxville, and had fallen asleep during their overnight shifts. FAA officials say the Knoxville controller actually made himself a makeshift bed and deliberately slept for about five hours despite attempts by a co-worker to wake him.