AP Uncovers Suppressed Study on Air Traffic Controller Fatigue
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
The Associated Press news agency has uncovered a report that the government has kept secret for four years, a study that found air traffic controllers’ frenetic work schedule makes them susceptible to chronic fatigue.
That the study came to such a conclusion is not surprising; that the federal government kept it quiet and repeatedly denied the Associated Press’ requests and a Freedom of Information Act filing certainly is.
The version the AP was able to obtain on its own was a draft of the final report dated Dec. 1, 2011.
According to the AP, the study found that nearly 2 in 10 controllers had committed significant errors in the previous year — such as bringing planes too close together — and over half attributed the errors to fatigue. A third of controllers said they perceived fatigue to be a "high" or "extreme" safety risk. Greater than 6 in 10 controllers indicated that in the previous year they had fallen asleep or experienced a lapse of attention while driving to or from midnight shifts, which typically begin about 10 p.m. and end around 6 a.m.
Overall, the AP found in the study that air traffic controllers whose activity was closely monitored by scientists averaged 5.8 hours of sleep per day over the course of a work week. But they averaged only 3.1 hours of sleep before midnight shifts and 5.4 hours before early morning shifts.
The study was composed of a survey of 3,268 controllers about their work schedules and sleep habits, and a field study that monitored the sleep and the mental alertness of more than 200 controllers at 30 air traffic facilities.
More by Rich Thomaselli
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions