Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You Aren’t Going to Like This: Air Traffic Controller Study Suppressed

Good Day World!

It’s never good when a government entity hides something from the public.

It’s even worse when public safety is at risk.

If you’re a frequent flyer who thinks air traffic controllers’ are always alert and rested, you may want to sit down for a moment.

(Illustration source)

Nearly four years ago, Federal Aviation Administration officials knew there was a problem – air traffic controllers’ schedules were causing chronic fatigue. That meant they knew most workers were less than alert.

The suppressed study found that nearly 2 in 10 controllers had committed significant errors in the previous year — such as bringing planes too close together — and over half attributed the errors to fatigue.

So why have Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials been so secretive about this study that was produced by NASA at the FAA's request?

You’d think it was in everyone’s best interest to keep the national air traffic system safe. But in spite of repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press, the FAA stonewalled them.

FAA officials also refused to share the report with researchers from the National Academies, which advises Congress on science issues.

However, the AP was finally able to obtain a draft of the final report dated Dec. 1, 2011.


The impetus for the study was a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board to the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to revise controller schedules to provide rest periods that are long enough "to obtain sufficient restorative sleep."

The study was completed several months after a series of incidents involving controllers falling asleep on the job embarrassed FAA officials and led to the resignation of the head of the agency's air traffic organization.

After the incidents, the FAA and the controllers' union announced several changes to address fatigue, including requirements that there be at least two controllers on duty after midnight and that controllers be provided at least nine hours between shifts to rest.

But the transportation safety board told the FAA in 2013: "We are concerned that, given the realities of the time required for an employee to commute home and back to work, and to attend to personal and family needs, a nine-hour break may not allow enough time for an employee to obtain eight continuous hours of sleep." (Source)

So far, nothings changed. There’s a lot of talking going on, but no action. Meanwhile somewhere in an airport near you there’s an air-traffic controller struggling to stay awake!

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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