Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good News: No Air Traffic Controllers Fell Asleep Last Night; Bad News: They Were Watching Movies Instead

The joke making the rounds last week was Sleepy Joe Biden would be put in charge of air traffic controllers. Now some dope in Cleveland was doing his best Obama impersonation by leaving his microphone on ... while playing a movie.

What they hell is going on here?
Another air traffic controller has been suspended, this time for watching a movie when he was supposed to be monitoring aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

While on duty, the controller was watching the 2007 crime thriller "Cleaner," starring Samuel L. Jackson on a DVD player early Sunday morning at a regional radar center in Cleveland that handles high altitude air traffic, FAA said in a statement. The controller's microphone was inadvertently activated, briefly transmitting the movie's soundtrack to all the planes in the airspace that the controller was supposed to be monitoring, the agency said.

Controller's microphone became stuck in the transmit position, preventing him from hearing incoming radio calls or issuing instructions to planes for more than three minutes, FAA said.

A military pilot contacted the FAA about the incident.
As to the rampant cases of sleepyhead, hey, it's a union problem.
Embarrassed by incidents in which controllers fell asleep in towers, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the men and women responsible for guiding planes off the ground and back must now have at least nine hours - up from eight hours - between shifts.

Sounds good. Means little.

The problem is that the FAA and the controllers union negotiated work schedules designed for staff convenience rather than for public safety.

Many controllers work two days from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., then do two days from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. and come back at 10 p.m. and work till 6 a.m. to finish a week.

Called a 2-2-1 counterclockwise shift, the schedule gives controllers 3-1/2 days off in a row. But it's hell on fatigue because it works against the body's normal rhythms of sleeping at night and being awake during the day.
Risking the flying public for a nice half week off. The union way!

1 comment:

Haiku Guy said...

That 2-2-1 rotating shift is a recipe for disaster.  People don't work that way.  When I was young, I could have pulled that off, no problemo.  But to ask a 40-year-old to do that without falling asleep is just not reasonable.