Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Do Air Traffic Controllers Fall Asleep on the Job? Because They Want a Three-Day Weekend

"For decades controllers themselves have had the last word on the schedules they work, and controllers and their union have fought to keep a "2-2-1 schedule" (known as "the rattler" because it comes back and bites the controllers) because it gives them a three-day weekend afterwards."


At 4/24/2011 8:43 AM, Blogger cluemeister said...

Of course the union isn't embarrassed by their members' behavior, but demands two controllers at the tower so this problem doesn't re-occur. Which means they will take turns sleeping.

I'm trying to remember all the times I've fallen asleep on the job. Oh yeah, that would be zero.

At 4/24/2011 10:40 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

The FAA has announced that 27 more towers accross the country will have two controllers on duty at night. On March 29th, the two controllers on duty at night in Lubbock, Texas, were "unavailable" (probably asleep). Two controllers might be a good idea, but until the three day weekend induced schedule is eliminated, sleepy time will endure.

At 4/24/2011 12:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Of course the union isn't embarrassed by their members' behavior, but demands two controllers at the tower so this problem doesn't re-occur. Which means they will take turns sleeping."

It should be obvious, that adding controllers to each tower is a move in the right direction, but just as with stimulus spending, not enough has been done. Adding a third controller may do the job, but if not, a fourth, or even a fifth may be necessary.

It should also be obvious that controllers are best qualified to determine their own schedule, without intrerferrence by management, or those pesky "safety first" whiners.

At 4/24/2011 4:26 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Things are changing if you believe what the Associated Press: FAA: Another air traffic controller caught napping - Agency changes work schedules

April 17, 2011, 12:02AM

The Federal Aviation Administration changed air traffic control work schedules Saturday, acknowledging it has a widespread problem with fatigue after another controller fell asleep on duty — this time in Miami...

At 4/24/2011 5:43 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Hey, that is nothing.

In Los Angeles, the LAPD has won not a three-day weekend, but a three-day workweek.

They work 12-hour shifts, take four days off.

Pension in 25 years. If they take a "disability" pension first.

Not quite the pension after 20 years you get in the U.S. military, but getting there...

At 4/24/2011 8:35 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

I am delighted to see right-wingers beginning to take interest in paring down federal employee excesses.

Here are federal departments, by employment.

Defense: 3,000,000
Veterans Affairs 235,000
Homeland Security 208,000
Treasury 115,000
Justice 112,000
Energy 109,000
USDA 109,000

We also have

HUD 10,000
Labor 17,000
Transportation 58,000
HHS 67,000

So, cutting pay and benefits of FAA controllers might yield us a few ducts. But as these numbers make painfully obvious, this is like tearing down a the federal tax-financed empire by pulling a few shingles off the roof of an output.

The heavy work is ahead.

Some of these department have doubled or more their outlays in just 10 years or less, those being Defense, Homeland Security and the VA.

Good luck. We don't need a axe; we need a chain saw. Or rather a bulldozer.

At 4/24/2011 11:01 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Is there any reason why air traffic controlling isn't evolving into greater and greater levels of automation? It seems like advanced computer algorithms would be much more efficient at controlling air traffic compared to a group of humans. With all the technology we have available, what is the hold up here?

At 4/25/2011 2:36 AM, Blogger James said...

It seems to me that the question to be asked from this sleeping air traffic controller problem is do we really need a controller at all? While the DCA controller sleeps two airplanes landed. If there are too few flight operations to keep the controller awake do we really need one there in the first place? The purpose of having a controller is to help provide safe separation when traffic is too heavy for the pilots to do so by themselves. I have spent many Saturday mornings practicing touch and go landings at Van Nuys airport one of the busiest airports in the world. Starting at 8 in the morning it was just me and the controller. I did not really need him. By 9 I was typically number 8 to land with 4 or more behind me and he was indeed helpful. Most airports in the nation have no controller and it works just fine. The problem seems to be that Congressmen love to get a control tower installed in their district and so we get more controllers than we really need.

Having a controller go to sleep is inconvenient but it does not comprise safety. The air traffic control system is designed to be safe even with malfunctions. All pilots are trained to handle a communication failure. Communication failures are usually radio problems but a controller going to sleep qualifies. The rule I taught my basic and instruments students in my misspent youth as a flight instructor was first fly your airplane, second navigate you airplane, and only then talk to the controller. That appears to be what the pilots involved did. And did safely.

At 4/25/2011 2:37 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"With all the technology we have available, what is the hold up here?"...


At 4/25/2011 7:29 AM, Blogger juandos said...

I saw where someone said he overheard two air traffic controllers talking and one said to the other,”I don’t believe I slept through the whole thing.”...

At 4/25/2011 8:10 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

FAA is working on the NEXTGEN air traffic control system. This system will eliminate the current system of air corridors and all's all planes to fly "direct" point to point. Each plane will negotiate its airspace with its nearest neighbors on an as required basis. The system will greatly reduce the need for air traffic controllers, and may allow pilotless aircraft to fly.

I believe the system is behind schedule due to funding issues, market battles over whose electronics and software will be used. I believe one or two primme contractors have failed to perform.

At 4/26/2011 11:46 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

""With all the technology we have available, what is the hold up here?"..."



Well, at least these guys.

Say! Maybe this napping business is a test of whether controllers are need at all. Obviously, if planes can land without them, there's no reason to pay them to nap in towers. They could be paid much less to just stay home and nap.


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