FAA, union leaders to begin meetings on air traffic control safety

CNN — After a seventh reported case this year of an air traffic controller sleeping on the job, top officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and a controllers’ union will begin a cross-country tour of air traffic control facilities on Monday.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, are expected to hold a series of meetings about air traffic control safety and professionalism. Their first stop will be at an Atlanta-area regional radar facility Monday.

Air traffic controllers are facing a slew of new rules aimed at preventing them from falling asleep while on duty, the federal government announced Sunday.

Controllers now must have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts, instead of the current minimum of eight hours, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. In addition, controllers can no longer be put on 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, LaHood said.

He said the FAA and the air traffic controllers’ union agreed to implement changes immediately following a series of recent incidents involving sleeping air traffic controllers.

On Saturday, the FAA suspended an air traffic controller for sleeping on the job at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center.

According to a preliminary review of air traffic tapes, the controller did not miss any calls from aircraft, and there was no operational impact, the agency said in a statement. The incident was reported to a manager by another controller, the FAA said. There were 12 controllers and two managers on duty.

Over the weekend, Babbitt said in a statement that he is prohibiting scheduling practices that may be contributing to fatigue.

Rinaldi said Saturday his union and the FAA agree that fatigue and scheduling must be addressed.

Earlier this month, Hank Krakowski resigned as the head of the FAA Air Traffic Organization amid revelations that several controllers fell asleep on the job this year.

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