Panic as another air traffic controller falls asleep on the job

Ruth Doherty

Yet another air traffic controller has fallen asleep on the job - for the fifth time since March.

The controller, who was working an overnight shift and has now been suspended, fell asleep while on duty at a radar centre in Miami, the Federal Aviation Administration said on Saturday.

According to a preliminary review of air traffic tapes, the controller did not miss any calls from aircraft and there was no impact to flight operations, the agency said.

The government is now looking to change air traffic controllers' work schedules most likely to cause fatigue. Last week it also announced it was ending its practice of single-staffing at some airport towers where traffic is light between midnight and 6am.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt were briefed on this particular incident early on Sunday morning by David Grizzle, acting chief operating officer of the Air Traffic Organisation.

Babbitt acknowledged the change in controllers' shedules most likely to induce fatigue. He didn't describe those changes, but said they will take place within 72 hours.

He told the Huffington Post: 'We are taking important steps today that will make a real difference in fighting air traffic controller fatigue. But we know we will need to do more. This is just the beginning.'

Earlier this week, the head of the FAA's air traffic operations resigned.

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