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Southwest Flight 1045 into MDW diverts due to radio silence at control tower

Just after midnight on June 4, 2016, the pilot for Southwest Airlines flight 1045 was unable to get anyone from the airport tower to respond. So a controller from the Federal Aviation Administration's regional center in Elgin stepped in. The airliner and other flights were put in a holding pattern as more attempts were made to reach the tower. Regional controller: Southwest 1045 did you try them on guard at all? Pilot: We tried them on guard, we got dispatch and company all trying to call… ( Más...

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Tom Bruce 7
bathroom break?? thought there was supposed to be 2+ controllers in tower on graveyard shift now?... used to work a tower at a commercial airport - all alone from 11 PM to 7 PM... YEAH, USED TO SLEEP... but always with speakers turned up high!
Jeff Lewis 3
Appreciate your speaking some truth on this, Tom. People need to understand that controllers in fact do things like sleep, read, listen to radios, use PCs, watch TVs while controlling traffic, each of which is not entirely unreasonable, especially where the controller is stuck being awake all night, often with 2-hours or even 5-hours of zero traffic to work. The problem comes in when controllers drop their vigilance - their ability and responsibility to drop the distraction - and the problem is compounded by both an agency and a controller union (NATCA) hellbent on coverup.
i think everyone had the burrito special at "al's mexican fiesta"

or they got the special instead of the soup.
Robert Fort 0
Not even close to funny.
Peter Lujan 1
But could be true
Land anyway.........! Call the center....Look at Montana/Wyoming, etc. The Captain makes the decision. Revenue flights land in many places without an active control tower.
AWAAlum 3
In today's environment, the pilot may have been concerned terrorists as a possible explanation for the radio silence. (Am I being paranoid, or what?)
joel wiley 2
The test for paranoia is one of reasonableness, not fear. In this day and age the possibility you mention can't be ruled out.
ken young 3
I would find it difficult to believe this was as low as some type of job action.
Therefore the only conclusion I can produce is a technical malfunction.
Over the last couple of decades, Unions have fallen out of favor with the public. If and that is a big IF, this was some kind of slowdown or protest perpetuated by the union that represents the Controllers, I believe there should be a reevaluation of the system
Jeff Lewis 2
Seems rational that, if this was a technical glitch, FAA would have said say very early on. That said, I do not believe it is a union action, either (and I paid dues to that union for years, BTW). If it had been a union action, the pattern would have likely been repeated at other airports. In recent months, both FAA and NATCA have been very cordial, working together trying to get the ATC privatization scam pushed through, as both controllers and FAA managers would then be able to exceed pay limits of around $180K/year (the level paid to elected congressional reps).
Billy Koskie 2
I'm way out of my element here, but shouldn't there be an answer to what happened by now? If a Freedom of Information Act filing got the voice recordings, wouldn't a similar filing get a copy of the FAA findings and records?
Jeff Lewis 2
This is the FAA, in this case. Sadly, this agency actually has staff, highly paid, who exist to obstruct the FOIA laws Congress passed. The two at the top, at FAA HQ, are Duke Taylor and Melanie Yohe. No accountability. I know this as a forced-to-retire ATC who has filed hundreds of FOIA requests with FAA, and had dozens of phonecalls all the way to Taylor, Melanie, trying to get them to do their jobs.
usad 2
They might as well fess up. It will come out at some point. (Probably in someone's book.) The high & mighty surely wouldn't let a lowly pilot slide on something like that...
Gary Nessel 2
I'm not a pilot, but curious if there's been any mention or response from the City or local police that were supposedly summoned to investigate the non-responsive tower, based on the audio comments from the Elgin FAA Regional Center.
Jeff Lewis 1
Solid investigative journalists would easily obtain the callout transcript and reports filed by local police and the airport authority. But, the real meaty information is controlled by FAA and NATCA; they know exactly what transpired, but have chosen to hide it from the Public.

Interestingly, a few years ago, when a controller at Knoxville made a bed and napped a couple hours, it created a media storm. Likewise, when a supervisor dozed off at Reagan National around midnight causing two late airline arrivals to delay landings, that too created a media storm. But, in 2016, it is as if FAA, NATCA and the mainstream media are colluding to keep us all ignorant.
Pa Thomas 2
Try them on guard? Hahahahahahahahahaha
Ruger9X19 7
Paul Adams 1
What does "on guard" mean? I'm not a commercial pilot.
Ruger9X19 9
Frequency 121.5. It is supposed to be monitored for emergencies but mostly it is a bunch of clowns yelling nonsense.
121.5 was (is?) referred to as D-Dog channel for emergencies (May Day! May Day!) back in my day.
jamesrae1950 1
I think you mean 122.8, 121.5 is not used by clowns, however the chatter on 22.8 pretty much is.
Matt Kladder 4
Guard frequency is 121.5, 122.8 holds no significance on a national level, it is a common CTAF freq, but that is all.
jamesrae1950 4
I guess you did not read the post that I responded to?
stoppe 2
Class D towered airports revert to class E when the tower in inoperative. Follow communication procedures for an untowered airport and land? Scheduled carriers may require an operating control tower though.
James Simms 2
TCL has football charters land late @ night/early morning after the tower personnel have gone home. They are controlled by BHM 50-60 miles up the road. For big football Saturday's, the city pays the overtime & a secondary runway is closed & used for overflow parking.
Iain Robertson 2
There are numerous Control Towers with single-manned (solo) operations during low traffic volume periods. Many more aerodrome Control Towers are closed during quiet hours.
I would think a larger airport like Midway would have a better tower presence.
srobak 1
No reason it shouldn't have been diverted to ord instead.
Paul Lupa 4
SWA has a presence at MDW, I would think that the would divert to the closest SWA destination.
srobak 2
They can get gas at any airport. It flew back to mdw without passengersanyhow later that night. Would have been a lot less inconvenient for the passengers. Especially those with connections.
Josh Erickson 3
Why? If they had connections wouldn't they most likely be on Southwest? In that case it would make much more sense to go towards Milwaukie. Since the flight was not in an emergency state, I agree with Paul that the closest SWA destination was definitely the way to go.
srobak 2
Still disagree. Ord is a half hour charter bus ride for all the passengers to make their connections at mdw (which is a sw hub. Mke is not).
but this was after midnight. how many 2am departures does SWA have?
Micah Heavener 1
Actually MKE is a focus city for SWA because they took over all AirTran flights and AirTran had a focus city at MKE.
Micah Heavener 1
Also just looked it up and SWA has 21 destinations from MKE.
jamesrae1950 1
Certainly ORD would have been a better choice, but CFR response aside, I probably would have treated it as an uncontrolled aerodrome and landed anyway, broadcasting intentions on the appropriate frequencies. Same thing happened at DCA a while back, if I Remember correctly.
Ric Wernicke 16
Respectfully I would disagree. It is night and you have souls aboard. You cannot see what might be on the runway, or what type of emergency has silenced the tower. Could be a danger to health, a terror event, police or fire emergency, or a skunk loose in the terminal.

No one aboard would object to the diversion in the world we currently live in. Gone are the days when a 3 foot chain link fence on the apron separated well wishers from the travelers boarding a Connie.

I say the pilots made the right move.
jamesrae1950 2
There are hundreds of commercial airports all over the world that do not have controllers 24 hours a day, and airlines Fly in and out every day. As to seeing if the runway is clear at night I can tell you from experience that, one, a controller can't possibly see a dog or deer on the runway from the tower especilally if the w/x is Cat 1, and two, select ground freq. and just ask the previous aircraft that landed, I mean they just followed him in for the last 10 miles. I get your point about an emergency but this arrival was in Cavok w/x. Having said all of this, company may have initiated the diversion, then the pilots are off the hook.
James Carlson 2
I think there's a huge difference between "tower officially closed" (whether part-time and outside service hours or NOTAM'd down) and "tower is officially open but nobody answers."

You're well within your rights to consider the latter an emergency, and exercise your 91.3 authority by treating the field as untowered. But if you have a better alternative, one that doesn't involve unknown risks, why not take the safer route?
alan curtis 3
But I think the point here is that there is a "situational awareness" difference between a "known to be uncontrolled aerodrome that is uncontrolled" and a "supposed to be controlled aerodrome that seems to be uncontrolled for unknown reasons". The first is in it's normal state, and the second is clearly a "red flag" that could mean just about anything, as pointed out all over this thread.

If I'm a passenger, I want to go land somewhere where everything appears normal, thank you very much!
Tom Bruce 2
don't think they could do that... comm jets with pax?? was at a tower that closed at night and would stay on overtime to clear late arrival
jamesrae1950 2
Thx Tom, but we have airports that do not have a staffed tower 24/7 served by commercial airlines. CFR is available 24/7 unless notamed different and they fly to 200/ 1/2 limits without a tower but there is a remote ctr freq. I Too, have observed tower staff remaining for a late last scheduled arrival. Today, I believe we have far too many pilots being led around by the nose and when there's silence on the other end all hell breaks loose. As I said earlier, maybe the company directed them to divert, but hypothetically, what if no one answered on any freq, would you stay up there all night.......far fetched yes, possible yes. Thx for the input.
joel wiley 1
That would take initiative on the part of the pilot. Is initiative spelled out in the SWA contract?
Initiative is good. Unless something goes wrong. Too many PAX along for the ride to do that. Agreed?
Tom Bruce 2
jamesrae1950 3
Except, if something goes wrong, it goes wrong and you can't do anything about. That's why I stated CFR response. However, at the end of the flight, not landing because ATC is nowhere to be found just proves the misconception that controllers land airplanes instead of pilots!
Tom Bruce 2
pilots land airplanes...controllers
try to insure runway clear and safe...
jamesrae1950 2
Yep, and they have never left one up there!
jamesrae1950 2
Good point.
LarryQB 1
FAA - why the stonewall? Did the investigation get slowed by missing emails?
Jeff Lewis -1
FAA stole a page from the Hillary Clinton playbook?
lynx318 2
The information will probably be released when we see Trump's taxfile.
No way would I go ahead and land a commercial aircraft in that situation. Too big of a risk. Hell, it's Chicago. The tower could've been under fire.
Lucio DiLoreto 1
Chris Murray 0
Why not just self announce on CTAF and land?!
Cade foster -4
None or limited consequences, what should we expect from some people these days?
You'd expect when so many lives are at stake that "unions" would want to get to the truth to prevent further incidents but once again another instance of unions only looking out for their own, not the public good.


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