Friday, August 29, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

FAA controllers working exhausting schedules

By
From page A6 | June 14, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Air traffic controllers are at greater risk for fatigue, errors and accidents because they work schedules known as “rattlers” that make it likely they’ll get little or no sleep before overnight shifts, according to a government-sponsored report.

Three years after a series of incidents in which controllers were found to be sleeping on the job, a National Research Council report released Friday expressed astonishment that the Federal Aviation Administration still permits controllers to work schedules that cram five work shifts into four 24-hour periods.

The schedules are popular with controllers because at the end of last shift they have 80 hours off before returning to work the next week. But controllers also call the shifts “rattlers” because they “turn around and bite back.”

The report also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the FAA’s program to prevent its 15,000 controllers from suffering fatigue on the job, a program that has been hit with budget cuts. And the 12-member committee of academic and industry experts who wrote the report at the behest of Congress said FAA officials refused to allow them to review results of prior research the agency conducted with NASA examining how late night work schedules affect controller performance.

The FAA-NASA research results “have remained in a ‘for official use only’ format” since 2009 and have not been released to the public, the report said.

An example of the kind of schedule that alarmed the report’s authors begins with two consecutive day shifts ending at 10 p.m. followed by two consecutive morning shifts beginning at 7 a.m. The controller gets off work at 3 p.m. after the second morning shift and returns to work at about 11 p.m. the same day for an overnight shift — the fifth and last shift of the workweek.

When factoring in commute times and the difficulty people have sleeping during the day when the human body’s circadian rhythms are “promoting wakefulness,” controllers are “unlikely to log a substantial amount of sleep, if any, before the final midnight shift,” the report said.

“From a fatigue and safety perspective, this scheduling is questionable and the committee was astonished to find that it is still allowed under current regulations,” the report said. The combination of “acute sleep loss” while working overnight hours when circadian rhythms are at their lowest ebb and people most crave sleep “increases the risk for fatigue and for associated errors and accidents,” the report said.

Responding to the report, the FAA said in a statement Friday that it is “adding limitations to its shift and scheduling rules.” The statement didn’t detail the limitations and FAA officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association defended the scheduling, citing the 2009 study that hasn’t been publicly released. The union said in a statement that NASA’s research showed that “with proper rest periods,” the rattler “actually produced less periods of fatigue risk to the overall schedule.”

In 2011, FAA officials and then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood promised reforms after a nearly a dozen incidents in which air traffic controllers were discovered sleeping on the job or didn’t respond to calls from pilots trying to land planes late at night. In one episode, two airliners landed at Washington’s Reagan National Airport without the aid of a controller because the lone controller on the overnight shift had fallen asleep.

Studies show most night shift workers, not just controllers, face difficulties staying awake no matter how much sleep they’ve had. That’s especially true if they aren’t active or don’t have work that keeps them mentally engaged. Controllers on night shifts often work in darkened rooms with frequent periods of little or no air traffic to occupy their attention — conditions scientists say are conducive to falling asleep.

“We all know what happens with fatigue,” said Mathias Basner, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school and the sleep expert on the committee. “The first thing you expect to see is attention going down, reaction time slows, you have behavioral lapses or micro-sleeps. … If you have to react quickly in that situation, that is problematic.”

After the 2011 sleeping incidents, the FAA stopped scheduling controllers to work alone on overnight shifts at 27 airports and air traffic facilities and increased the minimum time between work shifts to nine hours. But the agency revised its scheduling policy in April to permit single-controller overnight shifts in some circumstances.

The FAA has a “fatigue risk management program” for controllers aimed at detecting practices that increase tiredness, but budget cuts “have eliminated the program’s capability to monitor fatigue concerns proactively and to investigate whether initiatives to reduce fatigue risks are providing the intended benefits,” the report said.

Basner said the FAA was making no effort to determine whether there is a correlation between work schedules and controllers errors. For example, there were near collisions between airliners near Honolulu and Houston recently. Such incidents are often the result of controller errors.

The FAA and the controllers union have established a program that encourages controllers to report errors by promising they won’t be penalized for honest mistakes. The reports are entered into a database that the agency is supposed to use to spot trends or problem areas. But controllers are sometimes too busy to file reports, and the report forms don’t seek information on the controller’s schedule or other details that might be used to determine whether schedules are contributing to errors, Basner said.

___

Online:

National Research Council report: http://tinyurl.com/omymfwu

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Vallejo Symphony launches new season Sept. 21

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Prolific pears rule Courtland area

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

1 critical after 2 shot at Fairfield bus stop

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A1, 22 Comments | Gallery

 
New role for symphony conductor begins next year

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Vallejo festival will celebrate Wilderness Act anniversary

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Hood-Courtland: Small towns boast interesting facts

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1

 
Opponents: State water plan will destroy Delta

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
No plea as Vacaville homicide suspect appears in court

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
Vacaville man convicted of fifth DUI

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 8 Comments

 
Suisun police plan holiday weekend checkpoint

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

 
 
Solano continues to deal with earthquake

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
 
Bunting earns praise for role in paint case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

 
Suisun City police log: Aug. 27, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A8

Weather for Aug. 29, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B14

 
.

US / World

Mom won’t be charged in school confrontation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California Supreme Court pick confirmed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Feds to resume leasing for fracking in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

High school buddies followed similar path to jihad

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Drugs killed Oklahoma inmate in troubled execution

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

US rebukes Oklahoma for ditching school standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Suit claims police brutality at Ferguson protests

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

Flight diverts to Boston over reclined-seat upset

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Testimony wraps up in former Va. governor trial

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Q&A: Few laws govern children at shooting range

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
Gun tourism grows in popularity in recent years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Obama sets no timeline for action on immigration

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
4 killed in New Mexico crash of medical flight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Obama rules out US military action in Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
UN Security Council meets on Ukraine crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Russian columns enter Ukraine; leader urges calm

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
UN: Ebola disease caseload could reach 20,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Attempt to call missing jet may alter search area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Europe seeks role in postwar Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

UN: Armed group detains 43 peacekeepers in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
A look at the Islamic State militants in Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Jihadists kill dozens of captured Syrian soldiers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
.

Opinion

How about keeping our ISIS plan secret?

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 26 Comments

 
What should the US do about the Islamic State?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11, 4 Comments

 
Question of the week: Is US policy on hostages correct?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

More ways to help stop bullies

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

How do I deal with my overweight cousin who smells like cat urine?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B13, 1 Comment

 
Horoscopes: Aug. 29, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B13

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 29-Sept. 4

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: ‘As Above’ so-so

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Review: Ex-007 actor spying again in ‘Nov. Man’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Review: The case against binge-watching TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Entertainment calendar: Aug. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Jolie, Pitt wed privately at chateau in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
.

Sports

Prep football preview: Rio Vista looks to get back to playoffs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Angels rally in 10th for 4-3 win over Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Record-setting Petit leads Giants past Rockies 4-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Borland returns pick for TD, 49ers beat Texans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Carr’s 3 TDs lead Raiders past Seahawks 41-31

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
USC coach accepts some blame in Shaw situation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Williams overcomes 3 early double-faults to win at U.S. Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Mickelson in a bind with 4 straight playoff events

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Weakened US team aims for world basketball title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Rise in flags makes NFL defenders wary of contact

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

After Rice, NFL increases domestic violence bans

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Local youngster will play baseball on national stage

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B9, 1 Comment | Gallery

Week Zero prep football capsules

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

Signups for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

 
Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B11

This date in sports history for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Power looks for elusive IndyCar title at Fontana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

.

Business

M235i revives classic BMW memories

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Ukraine conflict weighs on markets; Retailers fall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Abercrombie name to shrink from clothing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Survey: Americans’ pessimism on economy has grown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Apple to unveil next products at Sept. 9 event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Average US 30-year mortgage rate at 4.1 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Obama touts revised economic growth numbers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US economy grew at brisk 4.2 pct. rate in Q2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Frank W. Moy Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Gary Allen Person

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B12

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B13