Video: Air Traffic Controllers Caught On Video Sleeping, reading, Playing with Cell phones
Westchester County Airport is a growing destination for seven different commercial airlines, from JetBlue to U.S. Airways and its one of the busiest airports in the country serving the corporate world.
Seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., air traffic controllers guide flights serving nearly 2 million passengers a year.
Sometimes 100 planes take off and land in an hour.
A source, that Fox 5 News is not identifying, says, "I'm upset and extremely concerned with things taking place at Westchester tower."
Risking a career or worse, the Westchester controller that is Fox 5's informant, documented many instances where fellow controllers had their eyes anywhere but on air traffic.
We're talking about sleeping, reading, texting.
"It poses an extreme threat to public safety. If someone's not paying attention 100%, attention, between separating arriving and departing air traffic, you could have a near miss or worse."
The video and photos provided to Fox 5 News appear to show up to ten air traffic controllers at Westchester Airport, where the job is all about watchfulness.
They are supposed to be scanning the skies, bringing incoming flights in safely and sending departing airplanes off without incident but some look more like dozing passengers. They are apparently sleeping in the control tower while on duty, others reading, or playing with their cell phones, or working their laptops.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules stipulate that "cellphones must be in the off position while in the operation. Personal reading material and electronic devices are not permitted in operational areas."
The FAA wouldn't agree to an on-camera interview with Fox 5 News. It did, however, provide an explanation.
The FAA sent Fox 5 News a statement saying, in part, that the elevator at the Westchester tower is out of service and because the permanent break room is eight flights downstairs, both the controllers union and the FAA came to an agreement to make the back portion of the tower cab the temporary break room.
In an email to Fox 5 News, an FAA spokesperson said, "The use of cell phones is strictly prohibited in the tower, however, employees have temporarily been permitted to use devices for texting and e-mail only on their personal breaks, but not when on position directing air traffic."
But, according to Fox 5's source, the video shows controllers sleeping and using electronic devices while in position on the job in the tower, which the FAA says is not allowed.
Under no circumstances are air traffic controllers ever allowed to sleep anywhere in the tower. But Fox 5's source says controllers have been sleeping and using distracting devices at the Westchester tower for years, well before the elevator broke.
The source also says it is not difficult to get distracted while in the tower. The control tower is a small, confined 5-sided room and approximately 12-feet in diameter.
Read More: Fox 5