Air-Traffic Controllers Are Not Doing a Great Job Recently

ARLINGTON, VA - AUGUST 26: Storm clouds gather over the control tower at Ronald Reagan National Airport August 26, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. The local forcast is calling for early afternoon thunderstorms in the Washington, DC area. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Photo: Mark Wilson/2003 Getty Images

Two planes carrying a total of 165 passengers had to land at Reagan National Airport in Washington without any assistance from the air-traffic-control tower early Wednesday morning, because the one controller on overnight duty reportedly fell asleep. As embarrassing as that is, it perhaps shouldn't be so shocking if you consider how bad air-traffic control has been in general lately, according to the Washington Post:

Air traffic controllers who direct more than 1.5 million flights annually in the Washington region made a record number of mistakes last year. Dozens of the errors triggered cockpit collision warning systems.

Nationwide, errors by air traffic controllers increased by 51 percent last year. The record number of errors — locally and nationally — reflects a majority of cases in which planes came too close and some in which a potentially fatal outcome was narrowly averted.

Yikes. They say airplanes are the safest form of travel, but you know what's even safer? Your imagination. It can take you anywhere and you definitely won't die! Hooray, imagination!

National to add second controller overnight after tower goes silent [WP]