U.S. probing why Washington airport tower went silent

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2011 8:37 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials said they are looking into why two passenger planes were unable to communicate with the air traffic control tower at Reagan Washington National Airport before landing early on Wednesday.

Both carriers landed without incident after failing to establish communications with the control tower, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

Citing internal records, The Washington Post reported the tower did not respond to pilot requests for landing assistance or to phone calls from controllers elsewhere in the region.

An American Airlines flight from Miami with 97 on board aborted its landing and circled the airport after getting no response from the tower at midnight, the Post reported.

A few minutes later, a United Airlines flight from Chicago with 68 on board also received no answer from the tower, the newspaper said.

"The pilots were in contact with air traffic controllers at the Potomac Tracon, which hands off flights to the tower shortly before they land, and both aircraft landed safely," the FAA said.

Spokesmen for the airlines were not immediately reachable for comment.

The FAA said it was investigating the incident.

"The FAA is looking into staffing issues and whether existing procedures were followed appropriately," it said.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Todd Eastham)