New shift rules for napping air-traffic controllers

Reports of sleeping controllers have led to a revamp of work rules.

Travel Insurance News - 18/04/2011

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A slew of reports concerning air traffic controllers sleeping on the job has led to a revamp of how shifts are assigned. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is responsible for overseeing the safe operation of air travel in the USA, has said it will do everything it can to end the practice.

US and global news reports have recently been filled with a series of reports of air traffic controllers failing to respond to communication from airborne pilots and other regional controllers. In many cases, the controllers were found to be asleep.

Authorities in the USA are blaming existing work schedules for the exhausted controllers. They say existing shift practices should change no later than the end of the week.

In at least one case, air traffic control at night was being handled by a lone senior controller. In some instances, this controller had apparently fallen asleep. In at least one other case, the controller reportedly accidentally locked himself out of the control tower.

Pilots destined to land at airports where there is no response from sleeping air traffic controllers have been left with difficult choices. In one case, a series of planes landed without any contact between the pilots and the tower.

The most recent news report concerns an air traffic controller in Miami falling asleep. The controller was working at a facility where radar control is tasked with handling air traffic flying at high altitudes.

On Thursday, the head of the USA’s air-traffic control agency resigned from his post. Hank Krakowski had been in charge of the daily work of some 15,000 traffic controllers working at 400 airports.

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