Government Study Shows Air Traffic Controllers have Chronic Fatigue

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A government study shows that many of the individuals who are responsible for keeping us safe in the skies are suffering from chronic fatigue. The study done by the Federal Aviation Administration and was kept secret for four years, until the press was able to obtain a draft of the final report. 

The study found that air traffic controllers’ work schedules often lead to chronic fatigue, which can make them less alert and can endanger the safety of the national air traffic system. Almost two in 10 controllers had committed significant errors in the past year, and over half attributed the errors to fatigue. About one-third of controllers said they thought fatigue was a high or extreme safety risk. Over 60 percent of controllers said that in the past year they had either fallen asleep or stopped paying attention while driving to or from midnight shifts.

Many controllers are required to work five straight midnight shifts. Controllers reported averaging about 5.8 hours of sleep during the day over the course of a work week. Over the course of the study, controllers wore a wrist device that recorded when they were asleep. They were also administered alertness tests several times per work shift. About 76 percent of controllers in the field study worked schedules that led to chronic fatigue. The study made recommendations to the FAA, including that mandatory six-day schedules be discontinued immediately. However, those schedules are still common.

The study was prompted by a 2006 accident in which an airliner crashed while taking off from a runway that was too short in Kentucky, killing 49 of the 50 people on board. The air traffic controller who had cleared the plane for takeoff didn’t notice that it went onto the wrong runway. He had only had two hours sleep in the previous 24 hours.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a plane crash, it’s critical that you speak with an attorney quickly after the accident. Plane crashes are complex and time is critical. There may be many different negligent parties involved, including air traffic controllers, pilots, the airline, mechanics, and others. Call the Houston personal injury attorneys at Kennedy Hodges if you have been involved in a plane crash. We can be reached at 855-947-0707. Call us to learn more. 

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