FAA makes scheduling changes to prevent controller fatigue

Washington – After a number of recent incidents involving air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job, scheduling changes will take place to allow for more rest time between shifts and keep the traveling public safe, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt announced April 17.

According to a press release, Babbitt and other FAA leaders will continue visits to air traffic facilities nationwide as they promote a “Call to Action” effort to educate others about traffic control safety, professionalism and risks of fatigue. FAA also plans to commission an independent review of the air traffic control training curriculum and qualifications. On April 13, Babbitt said an additional air traffic controller was placed on the midnight shift at 27 control towers around the country.

The new scheduling rules were immediately put in place and became fully effective April 22. The rules state:

  • Controllers now will have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts.
  • Controllers cannot swap shifts unless they have a minimum of nine hours off between the last shift worked and the one they want to begin.
  • Controllers cannot switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.
  • FAA managers will schedule their own shifts in a way to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late-night hours.

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