Circumstances explaining why a flight controller is apparently incapacitated while working alone in the tower of a Las Vegas airport during an intense night shift at the start of this week are under investigation, officials said Friday.
For about 40 minutes a female leadwoman spoke her words as she communicated with 29 pilots in the air and on the tracks of McCarran International Airport before losing consciousness.
"A Las Vegas tower air traffic controller became paralyzed while on duty," the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. "No security events occurred during this incident."
He did not identify the controller or if he had a medical emergency.
The woman started her turn at 10 pm. On Wednesday, the Las Vegas review newspaper reported. He worked for just over an hour before trouble started.
Air traffic records available on the Internet show commercial airline pilots who have difficulty understanding the controller during radio communications on land approaches, distances to take off, and taxi directions. Some start talking to each other about something wrong.
At one point, the controller seems sleepy and apologizes by radio, saying he is "suffocating a little". A few minutes later, you miss the call numbers of an airplane incorrectly. Finally, his microphone opens to the sound of coughing and grunting.
It does not respond to a pilot's request before the sound of a male voice is heard in the room asking if the woman is well.
A second controller was on duty at the time, but had left for his interruption, which the FAA allows, reported the review newspaper. He was called to return to the tower after the incident.
The FAA said that the woman was put on administrative leave and that the agency ordered two controllers to be in the tower during peak hours.
"The FAA is deeply concerned about the incident, is investigating thoroughly what has happened and is taking immediate action to change its night-time staffing policies," said the agency's statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.