Air traffic control tower
The controversy over air traffic controllers continues as a third man has been fired for sleeping in the tower. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Air traffic controllers taking a nap on the job has been subject of recent controversy, as several men at the helm of airports have been caught sleeping on the job. The fight is over whether these fellows have been severely derelict in their duty and if the profession as it is needs an overhaul. However, the trade is not well understood and one of the most stressful occupations in the world.

Third air traffic controller fired for sleeping

A third air traffic controller was fired for being asleep on duty, after the recent controversy has led to perhaps an even greater sensitivity towards ATC personnel being discharged for napping. An air traffic control man has been fired by the Federal Aviation Administration after being found to be asleep in the tower at Boeing Field in Seattle, according to Reuters. The man in question had been found asleep on the job twice, once in early April and previously in January. Boeing is not the primary passenger hub in the region; the usual passenger hub for that area is Seattle-Tacoma International, commonly called SeaTac.

Uproar over sleeping on duty

The uproar began weeks ago when a March 23 flight was landing at Ronald Reagan International, and the pilots were unable to reach anyone in the tower, according to CNN. Thankfully, the pilots were able to land the plane without incident and no one was hurt. The worker was immediately suspended and later fired. However, the incident touched off a brouhaha over the practices of the nation’s air traffic control personnel. People have begun questioning just who is in charge of the people in charge of directing air traffic. Politicians immediately decried the practice and promised to hold traffic controllers and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to a higher standard. However, the job is not well understood.

Naps could save lives

It has been suggested for more than two decades that air traffic control personnel are easily susceptible to fatigue and could use more sleep, according to USA Today. The National Traffic Safety Board found that a 20- to 30-minute nap during a shift kept workers refreshed and alert, though Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood has completely dismissed the idea by saying that people will not be paid to sleep. However, many problems are credited, according to the Wall Street Journal, to what controllers call “the rattler.” The fifth shift of a week on a “rattler schedule” is an overnight shift that begins nine hours after the fourth shift ends. Performance can degrade, and fatigue can easily set in while stuck in a cramped, completely black room with only a computer screen for light.

Sources

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/26/us-faa-firing-idUSTRE73P51J20110426?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TRAVEL/04/26/nextgen.gps.solutions/

USA Today: http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2011/04/on-the-job-naps/167464/1

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704658704576275482890449352.html?mod=googlenews_wsj


 

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