Federal Authorities Investigate Air Traffic Controller Fatigue Following Series of Close Calls

FAA Sets up Panel to Investigate Air Traffic Controller Fatigue

Federal aviation authorities have established a panel to address the problem of air traffic controller fatigue after a series of near-collisions shone a spotlight on the issue.

There have been a number of near-miss aviation incidents this year, some involving apparent controller mistakes that could have been catastrophic. This has prompted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take action.

The FAA has convened a panel of experts to specifically focus on addressing the issue of fatigue in air traffic controllers, who are overworked and stretched thin due to staffing shortages. This move comes after a string of near-collisions.

“In light of the shortages, the FAA is working to accelerate hiring amid the challenges of a tight labor market,” said the government body responsible for the safety of air travel in a statement on December 20.

The three-member panel will seek to identify possible ways the FAA can better address controller fatigue and will begin work in January. Mark Rosekind, a sleep expert, will lead the panel, with the other members being Charles Czeisler and Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, who are experts in the field of sleep and fatigue.

< The persistent air traffic controller shortage has led to flight delays, with many facilities facing staffing shortages and mandatory overtime. Despite meeting its yearly hiring goal, the FAA is still approximately 3,000 controllers short of their overall staffing target. The Controller staffing at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control is at roughly 54 percent of recommended staffing. The FAA limits minimum flight requirements at congested New York City-area airports, citing controller staffing shortages. The FAA's National Airspace System Safety Review Team report released in mid-November points to the issues identified rendering the current level of safety unsustainable and must be urgently addressed. The report reco… mmends funding stability, replacing outdated equipment, and revamping the training program as measures to bolster safety. The FAA appointed the safety review team to come up with recommendations after a series of near-collisions this year involving commercial flights at or near major airports in the United States. There has been a spate of near-collisions reported across the U.S., including in Austin, Boston, Honolulu, New York, and the District of Columbia. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in March of 2023 that the nation's airports were on track to have over 20 close calls for the year. The FAA has pledged to spend another $121 million to mitigate runway incursions and support airport infrastructure projects. Additionally, the FAA has launched a monthly training series for its air traffic controller workforce. The aim is to reach the goal of zero close calls, according to Tim Arel, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization chief operating officer. The moves by the FAA follow a growing number of incidents this year, underlining the urgency to address the issue of air traffic controller fatigue. This is a developing story, and more updates on this issue are expected soon.


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