FAA And NATCA Reach
Agreement On Fatigue Recommendations
By Steve Hall
July 5, 2011 - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association
(NATCA) announced agreement (PDF)
on important fatigue recommendations that were developed
by a joint FAA-NATCA working group which was established
under the 2009 collective bargaining agreement.
"The American public must have confidence that our
nation's air traffic controllers are rested and ready to
work," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We
have the safest air transportation system in the world
but we needed to make changes and we are doing that."
The agreement reinforces existing FAA policy that prohibits air traffic controllers from sleeping while they are performing assigned duties. The FAA will continue to provide air traffic controllers breaks on the midnight shift based on staffing and workload. While on break, air traffic controllers are expected to conduct themselves professionally and be available for recall at all times.
and NATCA also agreed that all air traffic controllers must
report for work well-rested and mentally alert. It is the
employee's responsibility to notify their supervisor if they are
too fatigued to perform their air traffic control duties. As a
result of this agreement, air traffic controllers can now
request to take leave if they are too fatigued to work air
agreement marks the completion of the tasks required by this
joint FAA-NATCA fatigue working group. The FAA and NATCA will
continue to collaborate to reduce the risk of fatigue in the
traffic controllers have the responsibility to report rested and
ready to work so they can safely perform their operational
duties," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "But we also need
to make sure we have the right policies in place to reduce the
possibility of fatigue in the workplace."
pleased that the efforts of the joint NATCA-FAA fatigue
workgroup that produced these science-based recommendations have
resulted in an agreement and their implementation into the
schedules and work environments of our nation's dedicated and
highly professional air traffic controller workforce," said
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.
"We supported the
FAA's action to enhance aviation safety by eliminating single staffing
on the midnight shift and we fully support these recommendations that
address fatigue. They are common sense solutions to a safety problem
that NATCA and fatigue experts have consistently raised for many years."
controllers will also now be allowed to listen to the radio and read
appropriate printed material while on duty during the hours of 10PM and
6AM as traffic permits.
The FAA had
previously adjusted work schedules to give air traffic controllers a
minimum of nine hours off between shifts. The FAA and NATCA will develop
new watch schedule principles that incorporate fatigue science for
schedules beginning no later than September 1, 2012. The FAA and NATCA
are already beginning to work with local facilities on watch schedules
that reduce the possibility of fatigue in the transition from the day
shift to the midnight shift.
The FAA has also agreed to develop policies that will encourage air traffic controllers to seek medical help for sleep apnea. Currently, air traffic controllers lose their medical qualification if they are diagnosed with sleep apnea. The FAA will work to develop a process for most air traffic controllers with sleep apnea to regain their medical qualification once they receive proper medical treatment. The FAA's Office of Aerospace Medicine will also develop educational material to raise awareness of the symptoms and the physical effects of sleep apnea.
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