Air Traffic Control Association Back’s FAA Move to Decrease Controller Fatigue ~By John Hamilton

Washington, DC….The NATCA is backing the move by the FAA to reduce fatigue in Air Traffic Controllers. There have been numerous instances lately including the one last week in Reno where an air ambulance was delayed in landing because the tower couldn’t be contacted. The pilot finally landed without clearance because of health concerns for the patient on board. The Controller was later found to have nodded off. The Reno/Tahoe International incident seemed to be the final straw that moved the FAA to action. The new FAA guideline changes will extend to 9 hours the mandatory time between shifts. The NATCA President’s statement is below…


“NATCA stands in full support of the FAA’s immediate steps both today and last week to address the recent incidents, including last night’s episode at Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center. NATCA and the FAA are in agreement that fatigue and scheduling must be addressed and I applaud and thank Administrator Babbitt for taking quick and decisive action today to address a large part of the problem and implement immediate steps.

“This latest incident earlier today is of great concern, as it is never acceptable when we don’t provide the level of service expected and required of us on every shift. We take our responsibilities very seriously and believe fatigue is a significant factor in these instances. We will continue to work with the FAA and through our professional standards workgroup to address the issue. Because there was adequate staffing in this large regional radar facility at the time, the incident was caught without any operational impact and no aircraft calls were missed. This shows that one part of the FAA’s plan for addressing this issue announced last week – adding additional staffing on the midnight shift at airport towers – was a wise move.

“However, our main focus is upholding our highest standards of professionalism and working with the FAA to reduce the effects of fatigue. To that end, the Administrator has made a smart move today to prohibit scheduling practices that have been identified as those most likely to result in air traffic controller fatigue. We are working closely with the FAA to continue the significant efforts underway to address fatigue and, as the FAA announced today, more details are forthcoming.

“The guideposts here for further action are the recommendations of the FAA-NATCA joint workforce on fatigue, which were the result of a year and a half of efforts. They provide science-based, healthy solutions to reducing controller fatigue.

“Finally, we are anxious to begin on Monday morning a nationwide tour of air traffic control facilities with the Administrator and other top FAA officials. We will have direct conversations with controllers and continue our call to action to raise awareness, reinforce our professional standards and reaffirm our commitment to the safety of the system.”