FAA Administrator Changing ATC Scheduling Practices
By Shane Nolan
April 18, 2011 - Secretary of Transportation Ray
LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator
Randy Babbitt on Sunday announced changes to air traffic
controller scheduling practices that will allow
controllers more time for rest between shifts.
“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 Secretary of Transportation Ray
LaHood. “Safety is our top priority and we will continue
to make whatever changes are necessary.”
“Research shows us that giving people the chance for
even an additional one hour of rest during critical
periods in a schedule can improve work performance and
reduce the potential for fatigue,” said FAA
Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Taking advantage of the
time you have to rest is also a professional
The new scheduling rules have already been put in place and will
be fully in effect by the end of the week. Controllers will now
have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts.
Currently they may have as few as eight. They will no
longer be able to swap shifts unless they have a minimum of 9
hours off between the last shift they worked and the one they
want to begin.
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 in a way to ensure greater coverage in
the early morning and late night hours.
Today, FAA Administrator Babbitt and NATCA President Paul
Rinaldi will be in Atlanta, where they will begin their Call to
Action on air traffic control safety and professionalism
meetings. The goal of the Call to Action is to reinforce the
need for all air traffic personnel to adhere to the highest
Over the course of this week, they will visit air traffic
facilities in and around the following cities: Atlanta; Dallas -
Ft. Worth; Kansas City; Chicago; New York; and Washington, DC.
The two will also visit the air traffic control training academy
at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City.
Senior members of both FAA and NATCA leadership teams will also be visiting additional FAA facilities nationwide over the next few weeks. In addition to changes in scheduling practices, the Call to Action effort will include the development of a fatigue education program to teach controllers the risks of fatigue and how to avoid it.
The FAA will also commission an independent review of the air traffic
control training curriculum and qualifications to make sure new
controllers are properly prepared. NATCA will expand its own
Professional Standards program nationwide which focuses on peer-to-peer
education for controllers on how to maintain the highest degree of
The FAA suspended an air traffic controller early Saturday morning for
falling asleep while on duty during the midnight shift at the
According to a preliminary review of air traffic tapes, the controller
did not miss any calls from aircraft and there was no operational
impact. Prior to the start of the shift, all controllers were given a
briefing on professionalism and the importance of reporting to work fit
for duty. The incident was reported to a manager by another controller.
There were 12 controllers on duty and two managers.
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