WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS4) – MIAMI (CBS4) – Less than 24 hours after an air traffic controller at a Miami radar center was suspended for falling asleep on the job, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling aimed at reducing fatigue.
“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.”
The changes include:
- Controllers will now have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts, currently they may have as few as eight.
- Controllers 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.
- FAA managers will schedule their own shifts in a way to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late night hours.
“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 responsibility.”
The latest sleeping incident — the fifth to be disclosed by FAA since late March – occurred early Saturday morning at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center that handles high-altitude air traffic, FAA said in a statement.
Passengers at Miami International Airport reacted to the news Saturday.
“My safety is at risk and not only my safety but the safety of everyone else on the flight,” said passenger Melissa Friesen.
Others said they wanted to feel more secure when they board planes.
“I’m not happy with this news,” said Renata Rangel who was flying to Brazil. “because I need to feel secure when I’m flying.”
According to a preliminary review of air traffic tapes, the controller who works at the Miami Air Route Control Center on NW 58th Street did not miss any calls from aircraft and there was no operational impact. Controllers at the MARCC direct planes over 425,000 square miles of airspace. 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.
On Monday, FAA Administrator Babbitt and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi will begin meetings at air traffic facilities around the country as part of a nationwide Call to Action on air traffic control safety and professionalism.