Air Fatigue Federal agencies

FAA outlines strategies for preventing air traffic controller fatigue

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FAA

Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration is defending its scheduling practices that aim to prevent fatigue among air traffic controllers.

In response to an Aug. 10 Associated Press report highlighting that controllers’ work schedules often lead to chronic fatigue, FAA published a question-and-answer document regarding its fatigue risk management system. The system was implemented in 2012 after NASA conducted a field study that concluded that controllers slept an average of 5.8 hours per night before work, and 70 percent of respondents said they had caught themselves “about to doze off” while working on midnight shifts. Nearly 1 out of 5 controllers said they had been involved in some type of operational error, and 56 percent of those respondents named fatigue as a contributing factor.

FAA states it has made several changes under the fatigue risk management system. Among them:

  • Allowing for recuperative breaks when no duties are assigned
  • Requiring nine hours off duty when a day shift follows an evening shift
  • Requiring positive confirmation of air traffic hand-offs during midnight operations
  • Restricting consecutive midnight shifts
  • Restricting 10-hour midnight shifts
  • Restricting the start time of early morning day shifts that precede a midnight shift
  • Allowing controllers to self-declare fatigue and take time off if needed to recuperate