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Two Southwest Flights, One Lifeguard Flight, Delayed at Manchester Due to Staffing Shortage - (4/11/2007)

Two Southwest Airlines flights were put into a hold pattern and delayed 18 minutes before landing at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport last Friday, April 6, due to a staffing shortage in the Manchester Tower. The lone controller in the tower who was forced to work two hours, 40 minutes without a break finally was forced to take a restroom break and called Boston Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) to hold incoming flights.

The delayed flights were Southwest flights 1187 and 2379. Please see attached the official Federal Aviation Administration log from Boston TRACON that lists this event and the reason for the flights being delayed. 

The controller, who also was serving as a “controller in charge” and fulfilling FAA rules requiring supervisory duties to be performed in the tower, was scheduled to work alone from 5:30 p.m. EDT to 9:30 p.m. This is the third time in the last couple months that local FAA management scheduled only one controller on a shift. The controller was forced to leave the tower at 7:59 p.m. for the restroom break. Before his break, the controller had worked 25 percent of the airport’s flights on Friday during that two hour, 40 minute stretch. 

While the reason for the delayed flights was clearly staffing, the FAA manager at Manchester has since counseled this controller that the “next time” this should happen, “don’t say staffing” was to blame. 

There was one other individual in the tower Friday night but they are in developmental status, were not fully certified to work traffic alone and also not CIC-certified, rendering them unable to substitute for the controller during the break. 

However, during the break, this individual answered a call from a pilot of a Lifeguard Flight that was requesting to taxi for takeoff. The trainee informed the pilot he would have to wait 10 minutes until the controller returned to the tower. The pilot replied that he had, “lungs on board. Is there anything you can do?” The trainee said no. Therefore, this important medical flight, on its way to Teterboro, N.J., Airport, was also delayed due to staffing.


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