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FAA suspends controller for watching movie on duty

April 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is renewed scrutiny on Tuesday on air traffic controllers after another is suspended. This time, it was for watching a movie while working.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the incident happened at a regional radar facility near Cleveland. A controller there was caught watching a DVD when he was supposed to be monitoring air traffic.

The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the audio of the movie - the 2007 crime thriller "Cleaner," starring Samuel L. Jackson - for more than three minutes to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

The controller's microphone became stuck in the transmit position, preventing him from hearing incoming radio calls or issuing instructions to planes during the incident, the agency said.

Both the controller and a manager have been suspended.

So far this year, there have been more than a half dozen suspensions of controllers caught sleeping on the job. In all, the FAA has suspended eight controllers and supervisors since late March.

Some changes are already in the works to try and deal with scheduling and fatigue issues. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt says he will do whatever is needed to ensure safety in the skies.

"The bottom line is we won't tolerate this, period," Babbitt said.

The FAA just announced controllers are now required to have nine hours off between shifts instead of eight. Managers will also now work more early morning and late night hours.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.