Do Air Traffic Controllers Need More Sleep?
It was reported by CNN.com that the FAA and Air Traffic Controllers Union agreed to change the rules air traffic controllers' shifts to allow them more time to sleep.
On Saturday, the FAA suspended yet another air traffic controller for sleeping on the job, the seventh apparent incident this year the agency has disclosed.
After finding and suspending another controller, the FAA has recognized that there's a need for changes, and they're taking action. But the recommended action doesn't seem to truly address the issues in my mind.
Experts throughout the industry agree the United States enjoys the world's safest air traffic system, with no deaths from commercial airline crashes last year.
In the future, safety concerns from gridlock and over worked air traffic controllers is expected to increase as the skies and airports become more crowded.
Would more sleep help Air Traffic Controllers? You Bet! But the FAA has only mandated a one hour increase in the rest for Controllers. An increase from 8 hours to 9 hours of rest between shifts.
What about utilizing new technology to help with Air Traffic Safety?
Radar -- the technology that currently tracks all flights -- dates back to the early 20th century. It's less accurate than GPS, its data is delayed by about 10 seconds and pilots can't use it to see their positions on a cockpit display.
A new GPS-based technology promises to increase safety by allowing pilots to see their locations and locations of surrounding aircraft via a cockpit display in real time. This visual aide would vastly improve what pilots call "situation awareness", a mental picture of where their aircraft is in relation to its surroundings.
Would new technology help Pilots and Controllers alike? You bet!
In the short term, the FAA's mandate that Air Traffic Controllers take at least 9 hours off between shifts, will help a little, but why not 10 hours or 12 hours. It doesn't seem that 9 hours, a one hour increase in rest, is doing enough to protect air travelers and the health of controllers.
Truckers - the life blood of American Commerce - are mandated to take at least 10 consecutive hours off for every 11 hours of driving in a 14hour duty period. This keeps truckers and motorists safe on our highways, why haven't we dictated this same mandate for Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots to protect our air travel and passengers?
Do you think Air Traffic Controllers need more or less than 9 hours off between shifts?