Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Incheon Air Traffic Controller Paralyzed for an Hour

It has been revealed that a controller at Incheon International Airport, which recently won the title of World's Best Airport for the sixth year in a row, was paralyzed for nearly an hour on Wednesday, putting commercial airplanes flying in the country's airspace at risk of mid-air collisions, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.

It is believed the incident initially went unnoticed, but colleagues said their suspicions were raised when the baseball broadcast he'd been watching between the SK Wyverns and LG Twins ended, but he kept his mobile phone on. Ten minutes later, his Windows XP screensaver activated, making it impossible to see the planes being tracked on his monitor. "At that point we knew he couldn't be watching the aircraft anymore" reported a colleague, who phoned a supervisor to intervene after tweeting about the apparent problem on his Twitter account. Later, when the supervisor arrived, he confirmed that the controller appeared to be paralyzed, and after consulting with airport management, the conclusion was reached that he was not able to continue performing his duties.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs later tried to play down the story and ease public fears, saying that the flight delays during the incident were actually caused by a failure in the air-traffic control software system, which is perfectly normal. Computer crashes are extremely common in Korea, and are often caused by relatively mundane events such as Windows activation failures, viruses and North Korean hacking.

In recent months a number of pilots have been breathalyzed and removed from the cockpits of their planes in Korea after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol before taking off, which led to the government promising to extend laws banning some drunk drivers from driving buses to be extended to the airline industry. But there were no plans to include air traffic controllers as part of the measures.

However, the next day when the paralyzed air traffic controller was tested for the presence of alcohol, he was found to be below the legal limit, leaving the cause of his paralysis a mystery. The Incheon-based SK Wyverns beat Seoul's LG Twins by an impressive margin of 11-2, with SK first baseman Park Jeong-kwon going 2-5 with a HR, three RBIs and two runs scored.

Related Links
Incheon air traffic controller paralyzed for an hour
Most Office Workers Do Something Else at Work
Incheon Airport Wins Best Airport Title for 6th Straight Year
SK 11, LG 2
Some Drunk Drivers to be Banned from Driving Buses
Drunken pilots raise air travel risks
Asiana Airlines pilot caught boarding airplane intoxicated