Police: Air traffic controller found unconscious, intoxicated while on duty at Springdale Municipal Airport

Philip “P.J.” Maschek
Philip “P.J.” Maschek

SPRINGDALE -- An on-duty air traffic controller was arrested Thursday morning after police said he was intoxicated in the Springdale Municipal Airport tower, according to a police arrest report Thursday.

Longtime controller Philip "P.J." Maschek, 50, of 3031 Pagosa St. was arrested in connection with public intoxication, a misdemeanor offense. Police don't expect to add other charges, said Lt. Scott Lewis, police spokesman.

Maschek was in charge of the airport's towers for about two hours Thursday morning. The tower typically opens at 6 a.m. Another controller arrived and took over duties by 8:05 a.m., said Wyman Morgan, city administrative and financial services director who also oversees airport business.

No one was injured, but the controller position, which communicates with airplanes taking off and landing, is "highly sensitive," Morgan said..

A city employee found Maschek unconscious on the tower floor about 7:45 a.m. Thursday, Morgan said. A pilot who wanted to take off couldn't get the tower to respond, Morgan said. The employee found Maschek "passed out in his chair with his shirt off," according to the police report.

Morgan said he called police, and the airport handled the situation quickly.

Maschek failed field sobriety tests, according to the police report. He showed signs of intoxication, including slurring his speech, swaying on his feet, struggling to follow directions and balancing, according to the report. Police worried Maschek was too intoxicated to climb down a steep ladder to leave the tower and didn't immediately handcuff him, according to the report.

The controller argued with police over the term "public" when police explained he was arrested in connection with public intoxication, the report shows. Maschek was wearing a black robe and house shoes when he was arrested, according to the report.

Maschek refused a breath test, according to the report. Police didn't take a blood sample, Lewis said. No information was available in the police report to show a level of intoxication. He denied intoxication, the report shows.

This is the first time Morgan remembered any problems with Maschek, but Maschek isn't a city employee, he said. Maschek works for Robinson Aviation, the contracting company that operates the tower for the city, Morgan said.

Robinson provides air traffic control and engineering services to governments and industry through contracts, according to its website. The business employs more than 500 air traffic control specialists, engineers, technicians and analysts, according to its website.

The company is approved through the Federal Aviation Administration, Morgan said. Federal Aviation Administration spokesmen didn't respond to a list of questions, but spokesman Tony Molinaro sent one comment via email Thursday evening.

"The FAA will work with (Robinson), the controller's employer, to investigate the incident," Molinaro said.

Maschek told police he has worked with the city for 20 years. Morgan said Maschek was a qualified operator who made a mistake "we couldn't tolerate."

"The tower operator has control and responsibility of the safety of the planes landing and taking off at the airport," Morgan said. "It's a very safety-oriented position."

The company that employs Maschek plans an investigation but has no further comment, said Charlie Taylor, vice president of air traffic services.

Maschek was at the Springdale jail Thursday. Police were requesting his bond be set at $350.

NW News on 07/17/2015

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