Air Traffic Controllers Are Sleepy

There aren’t enough new air traffic controllers being trained and hired, so the ones landing your plane may be sleepy. That’s bad for you, because air traffic controllers keep planes from crashing. From CNN:

Fatigued air traffic controllers contributed to four aviation mishaps in recent years, and may have been a factor in last year’s Comair crash that killed 49 people, according to federal accident investigators.

The investigators are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to revise work schedules and take other actions to prevent controllers from becoming tired on the job.

“Controllers are absolutely more tired now than they have ever been, and it’s because they are forced to work overtime. This is an understaffed system, and the FAA is lying when they say it’s not,” said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

What? Nobody wants to land planes when they grow up? —MEGHANN MARCO

NTSB: Air controller fatigue contributed to 4 mishaps [CNN]
(Photo: JohnKit)

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  1. aishel says:

    This reminds me of the story where planes had to wait 18 minutes while an air traffic controller used the bathroom. He was the only one on staff so once he was in the bathroom, no on could take off or land without permission:
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/11/tower.break/index.html

  2. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Wow there is a shortage of applicants for a underpaid, over worked, micro-managed, pressure cooker job…Shocker.

    I’m in ur tower
    Crashin ur Planez….

  3. karmaghost says:

    @Consumerist and Nemesis_Enforcer:

    Air traffic controllers are actually paid quite well. The average annual salary is about $106,000 a year when you don’t consider all those overtime hours they’re talking about having to work. They also have really good benefits and are eligible to retire at age 50.

    I guess you could argue that they’re overworked and are in a very stressful job, but they certainly don’t work for peanuts. And as for wanting to land planes when you grow up? I would imagine someone who’s pretty into planes and flight in general would be pretty happy with their jobs.

  4. myrall says:

    I have a friend who’s an ATC for a jumbo metropolitan area. He’s a little kooky (and what else would you expect from someone who sits in a dark room all day talking through a headset to people he’ll never see), but otherwise well adjusted. He works a TON of hours and always looks tired. He said turnover in his business is spectacular – something around 70%. According to him, most people can’t take the stress and seriously bug out after three months on the job.

    I do know that he’s paid pretty well for all that OT because he could afford to import a Brazillian wife. He also has some insane stories about grounding planes during 9/11.

  5. Nicholai says:

    Understaffed? ha. I know some one who works as a 911 dispatcher. He works from 4:30AM to 6:00pm

  6. IC18 says:

    That nice salary is pretty useless if you are planning to give up more than half youre life for this job.

  7. badgeman46 says:

    I AM and air traffic controller, I will tell you I make 78K a year under our current pay system, I will not see a raise in 5 years. It is a steady paycheck, but there are PLENTY of jobs in the private sector that make more money for a lot less stress and responsibility. Look at it this way, a heart surgeon makes a mistake, it can only affect one person. We work over a million traveller’s a day.

  8. pestie says:

    If it weren’t for the long hours, I’d do this job. I flew small planes for a while as a private pilot and I loved it, but it’s hideously expensive. Still, I loved the whole aviation thing, and sitting in a dark room staring at screens isn’t too different from being a computer programmer, which is what I’m doing now. Heh… Of course I’d have people’s lives in my hand, but I’m very focused and excellent with attention to detail, so I think I’d do quite well. But long hours suck.