In an abundance of caution, a little redundancy never hurts. So U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was correct in ordering at least two air traffic controllers to be on duty in the towers of the nation's 31 airports that operate overnight.
LaHood's action comes on the heels of an embarrassing and potentially disastrous incident last week when a lone controller in the tower at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport apparently fell asleep on the job, forcing the pilots of two commercial airliners carrying 165 passengers to take matters into their own hands by safely landing the planes without air traffic assistance at the most critical moments of the flight.
It is not uncommon for airport towers to be meagerly staffed overnight. Typically, the overnight shift at Tampa International Airport includes one controller in the tower, with a second controller assigned to the facility's radar room.
While it is true that overnight air traffic volume can be meager, the lives of passengers should be of paramount concern. Air traffic controllers should not become the weakest link in the nation's air transportation system. Credibility demands the controllers responsible for guiding aircraft safely to their destinations are fully engaged in their jobs. Air travel already has become a trying enough experience for travelers without having the additional worry of an air traffic controller falling asleep at the switch.