WASHINGTON, D.C. ( – Beleaguered air traffic controllers went on the offensive today, accusing pilots of purposely putting them to sleep by constantly speaking in that low-level, monotone mumble.
“Passengers hear pilots give those muttered, indecipherable announcements a few times a flight, but we have to hear that all night along,” said Randy Kirkham, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “I dare anyone to stay awake during that. I’ve had better conversations in a coma.”

A passenger bored to sleep by a pilot mumbling over the plane's PA system.

Charles Rand, chief of the airline pilots union, immediately denied the allegation and said pilots only speak in soft, mind-numbing voices to calm passengers.
“The fault here mmmm-mmmm air traffic mmm-mmm mmmm with our mmmm,” Rand said. “We mmmmm-mmmm cabin crew mmmm-mmm-mm thousand feet mmmm-mmmm flight time mmmm mmmm-mmmm rough air mmmm-mm-mmmmly. So sit back and relax.”
The FAA, however, conceded that a pilot’s voice is soporific.
“It is hypnotic,” said David Grizzle, interim head of Air Traffic for the FAA. “Most of us play cockpit tapes at night to get to sleep.”
The charges come in the wake of the resignation of FAA Air Traffic chief Hank Krakowski, who left under pressure last week. Krakowski could not be woken for comment, as he had fallen asleep to a particularly powerful mix of tranquilizers and a United Airlines co-pilot describing the weather conditions around Dallas/Fort Worth.
Controllers, meanwhile, contend that pilots are well aware of the effect they have, and produced a tape recording of a recent controller-pilot interaction as proof. On the tape, the tower at San Francisco International Airport tells Continental flight 449 to descend to 8,000 feet. The pilot replies, “Roger tower. Descending to 8,000. And then 7,000, 6,000, 5,000, 4,000 … you’re getting drowsy … 3,000, 2,000, 1,000… you’re asleep.”
Controllers say they’ve long endured the practice without complaint, but say pilots crossed the line by complaining to the FAA about dozing. As a result, pilots say controllers have begun to strike back.
“Saturday I was coming into Philly and I asked what runway and approach to take,” said American Airlines pilot Jeff Sandsby. “The controllers says, ‘Can you see the ground?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Good. Try and land on it.’ Once I got down I asked where to go. And he told me.’
“Yesterday in Minneapolis the tower told me I was cleared for fuck off,” he added.
Animosity between controllers and pilots is rarely talked about outside the industry for fear of creating a public panic, but the dozing crisis has brought the rivalry into the open. It’s also gone onto to the Internet, as competing Twitter postings last week from a pilot and a controller attest:
CaptainSkyJockey: “Here’s a good one: What do you get when you cross a 747 with an Airbus 320? Fired.”
PowerTower: “Here’s a better one: What do you get when you cross a 747 with an Airbus 320? Let’s find out.”

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