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Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

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Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

Old 2nd Dec 2023, 15:55
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Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

One air traffic controller went into work drunk this summer and joked about “making big money buzzed.” Another routinely smoked marijuana during breaks. A third employee threatened violence and then “aggressively pushed” a colleague who was directing airplanes.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/02/b...rs-safety.html
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Old 2nd Dec 2023, 16:02
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Old 2nd Dec 2023, 18:35
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Excerpt: Yet the conditions for many controllers are far from ideal. A nationwide staffing shortage — caused by years of employee turnover and tight budgets, among other factors — has forced many controllers to work six-day weeks and 10-hour days.

The result is a fatigued, distracted and demoralized work force that is increasingly prone to making mistakes, according to a Times investigation. The findings are based on interviews with more than 70 current and former air traffic controllers, pilots and federal officials, as well as thousands of pages of federal safety reports and internal F.A.A. records that The Times obtained.

While the U.S. airspace is remarkably safe, potentially dangerous close calls have been happening, on average, multiple times a week this year, The Times reported in August. Some controllers say they fear that a deadly crash is inevitable.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, there were 503 air traffic control lapses that the F.A.A. preliminarily categorized as “significant,” 65 percent more than in the prior year, according to internal agency reports reviewed by The Times. During that period, air traffic increased about 4 percent.

A database of aviation safety issues is peppered with recent mistakes by exhausted controllers. A controller at the air traffic control center in the Jacksonville, Fla., area instructed one airliner to turn into the path of another, later blaming being overworked and fatigued. A controller at a facility that monitors the skies above Southern California told a plane to fly too low, attributing the lapse to being “extremely tired” after working “continuous” overtime.

“If I can make a small mistake like that, I can make a bigger one,” the controller wrote in a submission included in the database, which is maintained by NASA.
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Old 2nd Dec 2023, 20:11
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nah, it can't be all bad, they even use 'Flight Radar 24'
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Old 2nd Dec 2023, 23:31
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Originally Posted by FUMR
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Article:

Drunk and Asleep on the Job: Air Traffic Controllers Pushed to the Brink

A nationwide shortage of controllers has resulted in an exhausted and demoralized work force that is increasingly prone to making dangerous mistakes.

Mohamed Sadek for The New York Times
Dec. 2, 2023Updated 7:56 a.m. ET



From left, Neil Burke, Michelle Hager and Ashley Smith, who recently left jobs as air traffic controllers, voiced concerns about staffing shortages and safety.

One air traffic controller went into work drunk this summer and joked about “making big money buzzed.” Another routinely smoked marijuana during breaks. A third employee threatened violence and then “aggressively pushed” a colleague who was directing airplanes.

The incidents were extreme examples, but they fit into a pattern that reveals glaring vulnerabilities in one of the most important protective layers of the nation’s vaunted aviation safety system.

In the past two years, air traffic controllers and others have submitted hundreds of complaints to a Federal Aviation Administration hotline describing issues like dangerous staffing shortages, mental health problems and deteriorating buildings, some infested by bugs and black mold.

There were at least seven reports of controllers sleeping when they were on duty and five about employees working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The New York Times obtained summaries of the complaints through an open-records request.

Air traffic controllers, who spend hours a day glued to monitors or scanning the skies with the lives of thousands of passengers at stake, are a last line of defense against crashes. The job comes with high stakes and intense pressure, even in the best of conditions.

Yet the conditions for many controllers are far from ideal. A nationwide staffing shortage — caused by years of employee turnover and tight budgets, among other factors — has forced many controllers to work six-day weeks and 10-hour days.
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Old 3rd Dec 2023, 01:10
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US ATC article - Front page NYT

The New York Times yesterday had an article on the state of ATC in US on its front page.

Link sent to me by US controller friend..

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/02/b...rs-safety.html

Staff issues there too;;; Not just Australia

N.B. Access may require email address. Good journalism requires data/money these days...

Lots of preceding articles on "near misses" at major US airports.

At least NTSB and FAA are acknowledging publicly issues...unlike other countries.

Last edited by ER_BN; 3rd Dec 2023 at 01:29.
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Old 3rd Dec 2023, 15:27
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Is capacity in the NAS reduced on days when there is shortage of controllers, much like when the weather is down, or do they keep pushing? It sounds like a unionized work force, how about calling in sick? Not your first option? If so, why? Lost pay? Fear of negative reprecussion? From another thread (LH in SFO) I got the impression the traffic situation is being monitored real time and departures can be ground held?
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Old 3rd Dec 2023, 16:19
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Catch 22 I fear. Lots of overtime = lots of $$$.
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