FAA sets new procedures for sleepy air traffic controllers
Federal officials are moving swiftly to correct the conditions that have left air traffic controllers dozing. On Sunday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced four immediate changes to FAA procedures.
Federal officials are moving swiftly to correct the conditions that have left air traffic controllers dozing while aircraft circled overhead seeking guidance for landing at the nation’s airports.Skip to next paragraph
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LaHood announced four immediate changes in procedures to be implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration:
The minimum time off between controllers’ shifts is being increased from eight hours to nine hours; controllers will not be allowed to swap shifts without having had nine hours off since their last shift; controllers won’t be able to shift to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off; and FAA managers will schedule their shifts to ensure greater coverage during early morning and late night hours.
“Research shows us that giving people the chance for even an additional one hour of rest during critical periods in a schedule can improve work performance and reduce the potential for fatigue,” FAA administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement Sunday. “Taking advantage of the time you have to rest is also a professional responsibility.”
Part of the problem is that controllers have been scheduling their shifts into a four-day week, allowing a three-day weekend. Also, the times of day and night worked frequently change from week to week, throwing off sleep cycles.
Asked on Fox News why his department had not recognized the problem sooner, LaHood said, "We thought controllers really were getting the rest that they needed.”