Air traffic controller fails to respond to pilot for 28 minutes - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Air traffic controller fails to respond to medivac pilot for 28 minutes

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CHARLESTON, West Virginia -

13 News has learned of an air traffic controller's mistake that could have cost a life.  A report just into the 13 Newsroom sheds light on an incident that happened on January 13 of this year at Yeager Airport. 

A Health Net pilot transporting a patient in desperate need of medical care tried repeatedly to contact air traffic control. The response, silence.

Yeager Airport director Rick Atkinson says this went on for 28 minutes.

"If someone is having a stroke or a heart attack, that could mean the difference between life and death," Atkinson said.  "We were told that he was incapacitated somehow, in the restroom or something like that."

Health Net President and CEO Clinton Burley says thanks to proper pilot training, the air traffic controller's failure to respond did not disrupt this flight.

"In this case, the pilot that was flying the helicopter used alternate methods of contact as the pilots are trained to do," Burley said.  "And in fact, there was no delay in delivery of the patient to the medical center."

As for the absent air traffic controller, airport officials tell 13 News that the FAA handled the investigation.

13 News attempted to contact Air Traffic Control at Yeager and the FAA, neither have commented on this issue.

13 News has learned that at least one thing at Yeager Airport has changed as a direct result of this occurrence.

"They provided the access code to the fire department so that if there is ever a non-response they can come to render aid," Atkinson said.

Officials from both Health Net and Yeager Airport say despite this single occurrence, they still have complete faith in the Federal Aviation Administration and their workers.