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Italian air traffic controllers suspended for sleeping on duty

19.10.07

Four air traffic controllers have been suspended at an Italian airport after it emerged they had been sleeping while on duty, the Scotsman newspaper reports. Officials at Italy's national Agency of Air Traffic Controllers launched an inquiry after being tipped off about the incident, and the staff, based at Milan's Linate airport, were suspended.

According to the newspaper, the incident came to light when pilots of flights that had been due to land at the airport, used by British Airways and the budget airline easyJet, in the early hours of the morning were met with silence when radioing the tower. Controllers at nearby airports stepped into handle the flights, while calls were made to Linate to wake up the dozing controllers.

It is not the first time that air traffic controllers at Linate airport have been at the centre of controversy. In an investigation seven years ago it emerged that controllers had skipped work to play football while colleagues covered for them.

In a statement the Italian Agency of Air Traffic Controllers confirmed that four controllers, including the shift manager, had been suspended for failing to 'respect night shift duties'. The statement added that at no time was any plane in danger as there was a back up system, adding the agency had 'full faith in its air traffic controllers whose professionalism and preparation was recognised the world over.' Presumably they are so good, they can do the job with their eyes closed!

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