FAA Air Traffic Head Resigns After Controller Mishaps

April 14, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Hank Krakowski testifies before a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about the August 13 mid-air collision of a small plane and a tourist helicopter over the Hudson River Sept. 16, 2009 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Hank Krakowski testifies before a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about the August 13 mid-air collision of a small plane and a tourist helicopter over the Hudson River Sept. 16, 2009 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The chief of the Federal Aviation Administration's operations division Hank Krakowski resigned on Tuesday after weeks of public scrutiny over air traffic controller mishaps, the FAA has announced.

In a statement, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt called Krakowski, who is in charge of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO), a "dedicated aviation professional" and thanked him for his service, but lamented a slew of recent incidents where air traffic controllers slept on the job and were out of communication with pilots.

“Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety," Babbitt said. "This conduct must stop immediately. I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership.”

In the cases where air traffic controllers had fallen asleep on duty, only one person was assigned to staff a control tower overnight. On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Babbitt announced that additional people would be assigned to work the midnight shift at 27 control towers where previously only one person worked overnight.

The most recent incident of an unresponsive air traffic controller came on Wednesday, April 13, when a medical flight with an ill patient on board could not reach anyone in the control tower at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The pilot landed safely after getting help from Northern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) but the controller, who had fallen asleep, was suspended, the DOT said.

Babbitt stated the agency will review the way it ensures air safety from “top to bottom.” Though he said FAA employees work diligently to ensure the safety of the public, he added that he will make any changes necessary to be sure the flying public is safe.

David Grizzle, FAA's chief counsel, was named acting head of ATO. The aviation agency will now conduct a national search to fill the job.