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On-Duty Air Traffic Controller Found Shirtless, Drunk & Passed Out in Tower

An Arkansas airport’s control tower was briefly unreachable Thursday morning because the air traffic controller on duty was passed out drunk at his desk.

After a pilot waiting for clearance to taxi couldn’t raise the control tower at Springdale Municipal Airport (SPZ) in Arkansas, the airport officials who went to investigate found the on-duty air traffic controller passed out drunk. Police say Philip Maschek, 50, a veteran air traffic controller, was discovered shirtless and unconscious at his desk.

Wyman Morgan, the official who discovered the disturbing scene in the control tower, called police who subsequently arrested Maschek. Morgan told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the longtime air traffic controller had “made an error we couldn’t tolerate.”

“The tower operator has control and responsibility of the safety of the planes landing and taking off at the airport,” Morgan lamented. “It’s a very safety-orientated position.”

According to the police report, Maschek denied being drunk, but refused to take a breathalyzer. By the time police arrived, Maschek was “squatting in front of a small refrigerator, swaying back and forth as he drank from a water bottle.” Police say Maschek was “slurring his speech” and “too drunk to climb down the ladder to leave the tower.”

Maschek was arrested at the scene on public intoxication charges.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has opened an investigation into the incident as well. In the meantime, FAA officials say that Maschek has resigned his position and will not return to duty.

[Photo: Springdale Police Department]

Comments are Closed.
ChimarraoMate July 22, 2015

I am a bit shocked and dismayed that the law does not require at least two air traffic controllers on duty at all times during operational hours, despite the size of the airport.

celsius1939 July 22, 2015

A typical government employee. It should scare all of us whenever we interact with these people.

Indelaware July 22, 2015

Shirtless. Who cares. Why should any person - male or female - be required to wear a shirt, particularly in the hot south? Drunk and sleeping: I would have terminated with cause rather than accepting the resignation.