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FAA delays air traffic controller rest policy: reports


Photo: Jerry Driendl/gettyimages

Washington — The Federal Aviation Administration has delayed implementation of a policy requiring air traffic controllers to have at least 10 hours of off-duty time between shifts.

The rule, announced April 19 by FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker, also mandates ATCs who work midnight shifts to take 12 hours off.

It initially was set to go into effect in July. However, in a memo sent May 3 to ATCs, FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer Timothy Arel said the policy won’t go into effect until 2025, according to a May 8 report in The Air Current.

The report states that the rollback puts the rule “in the normal course of the agency’s advanced negotiation process for controller schedules in collaboration with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association as part of their collective bargaining agreement.”

Multiple additional reports quote Arel as saying implementation may come “sooner” than the 2025 schedule “where feasible.”

In April, Whitaker said FAA decided to act after a recent agency-commissioned panel of fatigue experts concluded that sleep loss and extended wakefulness can trigger disruptions to ATCs’ circadian rhythms, leading to adverse effects on safety.

Whitaker said he’ll direct the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to ensure compliance with the new policy.

NATCA issued a statement welcoming the changes but expressing disappointment that FAA didn’t collaborate with the labor union when forming them. The union claims FAA hasn’t adequately addressed how a long-standing shortage of ATCs could impact worker fatigue.

Whitaker said FAA is on track to hire 1,800 new ATCs this year after meeting its hiring goal of 1,500 in 2023.

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