Friday, July 8, 2011

FAA and Air Traffic Controller Fatige

I saw in the LA Times that the FAA has announced new rules to prevent air traffic controllers from falling asleep on the job. Currently, air traffic controllers caught sleeping on the job, even if on break, can be fired because the agency says that the controllers need to be available for recall at all times. Since April, the FAA said there has been 7 instances of controllers sleeping on the job and 2 others where the controllers did not respond to attempts to contact them.

So the FAA's new plan is that controllers who are sleepy can listen to the radio or read to stay alert during overnight shifts when air traffic is light. The ruling still does not allow the controllers to take naps, even though that would be the most effective way to improve alertness. This makes no sense - if I'm sleepy, reading is probably not going to keep me alert. Physical exercise, napping, and perhaps some caffeine might, but not the radio or reading. I wonder if the American Academy of Sleep Medicine will get involved in this, to help guide the FAA in their attempts to combat controller fatigue.

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