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A new controller apparently falls asleep, sparking change and outrage
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Washington (CNN) -- Another air traffic controller apparently fell asleep while on duty, a problem that is prompting the government to put an extra staffer on midnight shifts at more than two dozen control towers across the country.

The latest incident occurred Wednesday morning at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada "when a controller fell asleep while a medical flight carrying an ill patient was trying to land," the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The flight originated in Mammoth Lakes, California, according to the FAA Pacific Division.

"The medical flight pilot was in communication with the Northern California Terminal Radar Approach Control and landed safely. The controller, who was out of communication for approximately 16 minutes, has been suspended while the FAA investigates," the FAA said in a statement.



Sleeping controller prompts FAA review

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FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt expressed outrage, saying "we absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job. This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards."

"This is absolutely unacceptable," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

It would be the sixth incident this year involving a sleeping controller that the FAA has disclosed. One occurred at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, another at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee, and three incidents involving the same person occurred at Boeing Field/King County International Airport in Seattle.

The FAA said it also suspended two controllers in Lubbock, Texas, for an incident in the early hours of March 29 in which they failed to hand off control of a departing flight to the Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center, and responded only after several attempts by the same center to hand them control of an arriving flight. The FAA statement did not indicate whether the Lubbock controllers were thought to have been asleep.

Babbitt and LaHood said the FAA will assign an extra air traffic controller on the midnight shift at 27 control towers staffed with only one controller during that time.

The FAA said Babbitt and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi "are launching a nationwide 'Call to Action' on air traffic control safety and professionalism" and will visit air traffic facilities to underscore the need for safety and professionalism.

The move will include "an independent review of the FAA's air traffic control training curriculum and qualifications and the expansion of NATCA's Professional Standards committees."

The FAA is also reviewing staffing and scheduling.

Nevada's senior senator, Harry Reid, said it was "a miracle that everyone is OK. We're glad that they are."

"Last night's near-tragedy reminds us that state-of-the-art structures and the best technology work only as well as the people operating them," Reid said Wednesday on the Senate floor. "If those people fall asleep on the job, they risk the lives of the millions of Americans who fly into and out of our airports every day."

Krys Bart, president of Reno-Tahoe International Airport, said the pilot of the Sierra Life Flight plane -- a Piper Cheyenne twin turboprop -- tried to make contact with the Reno tower at about 2 a.m., but got no response and began to circle the airport. After repeated failed attempts to reach someone in the tower, the pilot evaluated the situation and decided to land.

In his remarks on Capitol Hill, Reid said the pilot "tried to call the tower not once or twice, but seven times. The controller slept through every one of those calls." A federal government source on Wednesday confirmed to CNN the figure of seven attempted calls to the tower.

Bart said it is her understanding that there was only one controller on duty at the time. She added that she is pleased with the FAA's response, and issued a statement to clarify that air traffic control staffing is entirely in the federal agency's domain:

"We have a brand-new, state-of-the-art air traffic control tower, three runways and two instrument landing systems in place to help guide pilots on landing, take-off and ground control," Bart's statement said. "But what the airport has no control over is the staffing levels and personnel in the control tower. ... this is an FAA issue, the Airport Authority does not control what happens in the air traffic control tower."

However, Republican Rep. John L. Mica, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the move to increase tower staffing "misdirects our resources and focus away from congested air traffic control facilities."

"Only in the federal government would you double up on workers, averaging $161,000 per year in salary and benefits, that aren't doing their job," the Florida congressman said.

Mica and other committee leaders plan to meet with FAA officials behind closed doors to discuss what his office described as "a spate of near misses, runway incursions and incidents of sleeping on the job."

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Posts: 2533 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Washington (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration official in charge of operating the air traffic control system has resigned amid revelations that several controllers have fallen asleep on the job this year, the FAA chief said Thursday

Stepping down is Hank Krakowski, who has been the head of the FAA Air Traffic Organization. David Grizzle, the FAA's chief counsel, will be the acting chief of the unit during a search to fill the post, according to Randy Babbitt, the agency's administrator.

"Over the last few weeks we have seen examples of unprofessional conduct on the part of a few individuals that have rightly caused the traveling public to question our ability to ensure their safety. This conduct must stop immediately," Babbitt said in a statement.

"I am committed to maintaining the highest level of public confidence and that begins with strong leadership."

Will air traffic overhaul make us safer?

The development came after another air traffic controller apparently fell asleep while on duty, the sixth such incident this year that the FAA has disclosed.



Asleep at the FAA?



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Ray LaHood

The latest incident occurred Wednesday morning at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada "when a controller fell asleep while a medical flight carrying an ill patient was trying to land," the FAA said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the trend "absolutely unacceptable," and transportation officials immediately began making changes and reviews to address the problem.

For example, Babbitt and LaHood said the FAA will assign an extra air traffic controller on the midnight shift at 27 control towers that have been staffed with one controller during those hours.

The FAA said Babbitt and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi "are launching a nationwide 'Call to Action' on air traffic control safety and professionalism" and will visit air traffic facilities to underscore those points.

The move will include "an independent review of the FAA's air traffic control training curriculum and qualifications and the expansion of NATCA's Professional Standards committees." The FAA is also reviewing staffing and scheduling.

Normal sleep a 'privilege' for night workers

"We are conducting a top-to-bottom review of the way we operate our air traffic control system," Babbitt said. "We are all responsible and accountable for safety -- from senior FAA leadership to the controller in the tower. Employees at the FAA work diligently every day to run the safest air transportation system in the world. But I will continue to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure we concentrate on keeping the traveling public safe."

Along with the Nevada incident, cases of sleeping controllers occurred at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. Three incidents involving the same person occurred at King County International Airport/Boeing Field in Seattle.

The FAA said it also suspended two controllers in Lubbock, Texas, for an incident in which they failed to hand off control of a departing flight to the Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center, and responded only after several attempts by the same center to hand them control of an arriving flight. An FAA statement did not indicate whether the Lubbock controllers were thought to have been asleep.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL...ref=mrss_igoogle_cnn
 
Posts: 2533 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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More than 20% of the nation’s air-traffic controllers work at least one midnight shift in 14 days, which puts them at risk of falling asleep or making critical safety errors, the government’s own records show.


FAA Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski resigned Thursday amid disclosures of four instances of air traffic controllers sleeping on the job.

FAA Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski resigned Thursday amid disclosures of four instances of air traffic controllers sleeping on the job.



Internal records from the Federal Aviation Administration — the agency that oversees flight safety and the air-traffic system — show that 3,404 of the nation’s 15,475 controllers typically work the shift in a two-week pay period.

FAA records and reports, some of which date back years, also make clear the government has long been aware of the potential danger of fatigue among controllers working at night.

One report, prepared just last month for the FAA and its controllers’ union, paints the danger in stark terms: It warns that working several midnight shifts in a row is so tough on people that they behave as if they’re too drunk to legally drive.

Fatigue has become a major issue for the nation’s 24-hour, air-traffic system. Six controllers since February have been caught or been suspected of sleeping on the job at night or early morning.

The most recent incident was Wednesday in Reno, where a medical plane landed shortly after 2 a.m. after failing to rouse anyone in the airport’s tower. On Thursday, the FAA announced the resignation of its air-traffic chief, Hank Krakowski.

A review of FAA reports and studies show that the potential for fatigue goes beyond a handful of controllers sleeping on the job. Tired controllers have made mistakes that nearly led to catastrophic collisions on runways, incident reports show.

The report last month for the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association reiterated the point. “Acute fatigue occurs on a daily basis due to reduced sleep opportunity,” it says.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents and is a watchdog on air safety, recommended in 2007 that the FAA and the union alter schedules because fatigue had been linked to numerous incidents and accidents.

“Fatigue is a longstanding problem in the industry,” NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman says. “It shouldn't take controllers falling asleep on the job for the FAA to wake up to the fact that these schedules aren't in the best interest of safety.”

Although no changes have been made, the FAA and the union said Thursday they’re working on solutions.

http://travel.usatoday.com/fli...t=Google+Feedfetcher
 
Posts: 2533 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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