“To Fly the Friendly Skies Or Not”

 

Air Traffic Control

Okay, so how safe is it to fly the friendly skies? Inquiring minds want to know! With the recent rash of blunders by air traffic controllers one has to wonder.  What’s the deal with them anyway? Why have the guardians of our skies been conducting themselves so irresponsibly?  We’ve got controllers watching movies or falling asleep on the job when they’re supposed to be keeping the skies safe. Most recently a mistake by a controller put a plane carrying Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden in a near collision course with a military cargo plane. His error forced their plane to abort its landing.

To add insult to injury new computers that were intended to give the U.S. air traffic control system a desperately needed overhaul are not functioning properly. This could seriously impede progress to replace the aging system which is based on World War II radar technology. The new system is based on modern GPS technology.

On any given day, there are more than 87,000 flights in the United States.  At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the U. S. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings. Can you imagine? It’s no wonder these guys are so damn tired! Acute fatigue among air traffic controllers occurs on a daily basis due to reduced sleep opportunity. And the potential for disaster goes far beyond a few controllers falling asleep on the job. Tired controllers can make costly mistakes that could result in collisions in the air or on runways.

So what we’ve got is a severely outdated ATC system, operated by tired, overworked and stressed out controllers, many of whom work what they call “the rattler” (because of the way it rattles the brain) which is a combinations of day shifts, night shifts and overnight shifts, on consecutive days, with only short breaks in between. And these schedules are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration! Obviously our safety isn’t their top priority. The National transportation Safety Board has been recommending reform in air traffic control for years.

Come on FAA get with the program! These guys are responsible for the safety of thousands of people each and every day. Some of these guys have as little as eight hours between shifts (recently upgraded to nine hours by the FAA) Allowing for travel time to and from work, and a little time to unwind, that doesn’t leave much time for real sleep, then its back to work for another grueling shift. Somethings definitely wrong with this picture! We all know how difficult it is to work when we’re tired, and how it effects performance. The FAA has a responsibility to ensure that the controllers watching the skies are at their very best. Obviously this is NOT the case. Reform is needed now and has been for quite some time. Get a clue! It a shame that  it took a handful of  sleeping controllers, some near misses and national news coverage to make the FAA admit that there is a problem. What is going on with scheduling of these controllers is not in the best interest of public safety. DUH!

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe flying the friendly skies right now is a little riskier than it should be. Until the FAA gets its priorities in order and does something about the air traffic control problem, I think I’ll remain grounded.

Just a thought,

J S

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