Controller Scheduling Changed To Curb Fatigue

 - April 19, 2011, 10:15 AM

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Sunday announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling practices that will allow controllers more time for rest between shifts. The fact that the leaders worked on the controller fatigue issue over a weekend underscores the attention they’re giving to the issue in the wake of several incidents where lone controllers have fallen asleep late at night. This issue also led Hank Krakowski to resign as the air traffic chief on Thursday. “We expect controllers to come to work rested and ready to work and take personal responsibility for safety in the control towers. We have zero tolerance for sleeping on the job,” said LaHood. In lightning-speed fashion, the FAA and DOT developed new scheduling rules, which have already been put in place and will be fully in effect by the end of this week. Under the new rules, controllers will have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts, versus the previous eight, and they will no longer be able to swap shifts unless meeting this minimum; controllers will no longer be able to switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off; and FAA managers will schedule their own shifts to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late-night hours. Yesterday, Babbitt and the controllers union also began their “Call to Action” meetings on ATC safety and professionalism.