Air Traffic Controller: I Was Tired During Close Call

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The air traffic controller responsible for a near crash at Los Angeles International Airport (search) last year told investigators he was tired and had worked several busy stations before the incident happened, according to a federal report.

The report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board (search) also noted that the LAX control tower was staffed at about half its normal level at the time. It does not offer an official cause of the near disaster, which occurred on a clear afternoon in August 2004.

The controller positioned a Southwest jet, departing for Albuquerque, N.M., on the same runway where an Asiana jumbo jet, arriving from South Korea, had been cleared to land. The Asiana pilot saw the Southwest jet and pulled up as alarms sounded in the control tower.

The planes missed each other by 200 feet.

The controller handling the planes had just relieved another controller who needed a break. The departing controller told his replacement that he had cleared the Asiana jet to land, according to the report.

Mike Foote, the control tower's union representative, said he agreed with the report's findings but declined to comment further because of the ongoing federal investigation. Controllers have complained that short-staffing in the tower has resulted in dangerous conditions.

Federal Aviation Administration (search) spokesman Donn Walker said staffing was not the problem and blamed the incident on controller error.

According to the NTSB report, the controller handling the jets told investigators he had worked the previous evening and had slept no more than six hours before returning to the tower for a morning shift.

He said it had been a hard day and that he was feeling tired partly because he had worked several busy positions. His supervisor described the 15-year veteran as the best controller on duty at the time.

The NTSB is continuing to investigate.