A veteran air traffic controller responsible for two highly-publicized mishaps — one involving a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the other a plane with a Wisconsin congressman on board — has been arrested in New York after police said they found him with a gun in his car and methamphetamine in his pants pocket.
Breen Peck, 52, was transferred from the Warrenton, Va., air traffic control facility several years ago after the two troubling incidents came to light. After retraining, he was assigned to administrative duties at the facility that directs planes in and out of New York city airports. He was not, however, permitted to return to directing air traffic. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that it was investigating the circumstances related to Peck’s arrest.
Peck was arrested Wednesday night and arraigned Thursday in Hempstead, N.Y., on charges of criminal possession of a gun and possession of a controlled substance. He also was cited for a number of traffic violations.
Nassau county police said they pulled over Peck’s 2010 Toyota after he failed to signal a left turn. They said he told them that he had a loaded handgun behind the driver’s seat and another in the rear cargo area and did not have a permit. After they arrested him, police said they discovered a substance believed to be crystal methamphetamine in his front pants pocket.
While working in the Warrenton facility, Peck was responsible for two widely publicized incidents involving planes carrying high-profile passengers.
In 2010, he was directing the pilot of an United Airlines Airbus that came within 15 seconds of colliding with a smaller jet while approaching Reagan National Airport. The United pilot could be heard saying “That was close” on the radio. He reported pulling up hard after a cockpit collision warning went off, narrowly missing a 22-seat commuter jet. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) was onboard the plane.
The following April, Peck was directing a White House plane that was carrying Michelle Obama and Jill Biden as it attempted to land at Andrews Air Force Base. He allowed the plane to get too close to the potentially dangerous wake of a 200-ton military cargo jet. The White House plane aborted the landing attempt.
In addition to the Obama and Sensenbrenner incidents, Peck was held responsible for at least two other errors in the six years he worked at in Warrenton. He became a certified controller in 1991.