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Controller suspended for watching movie

WASHINGTON -- An air traffic controller has been suspended for watching a movie when he was supposed to be monitoring aircraft, deepening the Federal Aviation Administration's embarrassment following at least five cases of controllers sleeping on the job.

The controller was watching a movie on a DVD player early Sunday morning while on duty at a regional radar center in Oberlin, Ohio, near Cleveland, that handles high-altitude air traffic, the FAA said.

The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, transmitting the audio of the movie -- the 2007 crime thriller "Cleaner," starring Samuel L. Jackson -- for more than three minutes to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

The controller's microphone became stuck in the transmit position, preventing his hearing incoming radio calls or issuing instructions to planes, the agency said.

The controller was alerted to the problem when he was contacted by a military pilot.

The FAA also suspended a manager at the Oberlin center.

In all, the FAA has suspended nine controllers and supervisors since late March.

In five of the cases the controllers allegedly fell asleep. In another case, the FAA is investigating why two controllers in Lubbock, Texas, were unresponsive to radio calls.

Nearly all the incidents occurred during overnight shifts when traffic is light and people may have trouble staying awake.

-- AP

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