Wednesday's early morning control tower snafu at Washington National Airport (two aircraft landed after not being able to raise the controller on duty on the radio; the Washington Post reported he had fallen asleep) made the transition from embarrassing, safety-threatening foul up to potential political issue by Thursday afternoon.
Wednesday night, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, reacting to the incident, said he was directing FAA to put two air traffic controllers in the DCA tower on the midnight shift. "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," LaHood said, adding that he asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, a former airline pilot, to study staffing levels at other airports around the country.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m. today (Thursday), we received an emailed statement here in the newsroom from U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, in which Rockefeller said he was encouraged LaHood "took swift action to provide additional staff" for the ATC tower. He, too, called for an evaluation of controller staffing.
Roughly an hour later, a statement arrived from U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) in which the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Commitee, criticized LaHood's action. "Unfortunately the Administration's call for increased staff at Reagan National, when there are no flights during the early morning hours, is a typical bureaucratic response." He pledged his commitee would review the matter and directed its staff to gather information regarding the incident and other missteps in the nations' ATC system.