The Investigator | Air traffic controllers subject to expanded drug testing

According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, 196 controllers failed drug testing in a 5-year period. 26 worked in control towers in the Great Lakes Region.

From their perch high over Cleveland, air traffic controllers have our lives in their hands.

"We only have to know where one plane is going. The controller has to know where 10 planes are going," says veteran pilot Larry Rohl.

At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, controllers handle nearly 300 take-offs and landings a day. More than 8 million passengers passed through the airport in 2016.

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"You have to be clear headed and focused at all times," says controller Scott Huth who works at the Cuyahoga County airport.

"Sobriety is mandatory. It's absolutely necessary on the job," Huth said.

It's the job of air traffic controllers to keep aircraft separated.

"If they're under the effects of any kind of depressant, that's going to greatly impair their ability to not only do the basic job, but when problems occur, will they be able to rise to the occasion," said pilot Shawn Pruchnicki.

Air traffic controllers are tested randomly for alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and now opiates.

According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, 196 controllers failed drug testing in a 5-year period. 26 worked in control towers in the Great Lakes Region.

The union representing controllers add they're proud of the skill, professionalism and dedication of its employees. The spokesman said the workforce is well-trained and focused on safety.

Most controllers are found to be drug-free, but for those who fail random testing, they're immediately removed from their job and must undergo drug rehabilitation.

When they return to work, they're subject to unannounced drug testing at least six times in one year.