Thursday, April 19, 2007

Controller Fatigue Threatens Air Safety

Fatigue plays roll in job performance ...

"A new published report on aviation safety by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concludes that fatigue among air traffic controllers contributed to one fatal accident last year and at least four other close calls.
In a letter addressed to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Marion Blakey and National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Patrick Forey, NTSB President Mark Rosenker stated that rapid rotation and short rest periods are the likely reasons why controllers report sleeping an average of just 6 hours before day shifts and 2 hours before midnight shifts, highlighting that “controller fatigue decreases aviation safety.”

Rosenker also noted that FAA policies and controllers' off-duty habits also may be culprits and urged changes in controller scheduling policies and practices, as well as educating the controller work force on shift work, its effects on performance and fatigue management.

Controller Fatigue Played Role in Fatal Crash

The letter pointed to the Comair flight crash in August that killed 49 people and left one person seriously injured in Lexington, Ky. The reason for the accident, according to investigators, was because the controller had cleared the plane for takeoff and the flight crew mistakenly taxied onto the wrong runway. Because the controller was running on 2 hours of sleep, he was not vigilant enough to see the plane's mistake.

“Controllers are sometimes operating in a state of fatigue because of their work schedules and poorly managed utilization of their rest periods between shifts, and that fatigue has contributed to controller errors,” Rosenker said.

The board urged FAA and NATCA to revise work schedules "to provide rest periods that are long enough for controllers to obtain sufficient restorative sleep" and to modify shift rotations "to minimize disrupted sleep patterns."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Listen to this article


Anonymous Anonymous said...

review of work scheduling policies and the adoption of fatigue-awareness training programs are critical to aviation safety. In the position of an ATC, a simple mistake cannot be reversed in this profession, and unfortunately can result in the loss of lives.

12:40 PM  

Post a Comment