NTSB Says Air Traffic Workers Need Rest

The recommendations were based on its ongoing investigation of the Aug. 27 Comair crash that killed 49 people on take-off from Lexington, Ky., and on investigations of 10 earlier crashes or close calls.

The board said current regulations allow a controller to work four 10-hour shifts in 72 hours with eight hours off between shifts, although the contract called for eight-hours shifts on five consecutive days.

It said 61 percent of controllers work shifts that start earlier each day of the week. One in four controllers works at least one midnight shift a week, typically starting eight-hour shifts at 3 p.m. the first day, then 2 p.m., 7 a.m., 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Such schedules change too rapidly for body rhythms to adapt and oppose normal sleep-wake patterns, which work better with shifts that start later each day, the board said. The time off between day four and five is "especially problematic because controllers adapted to night sleeps must return to work an overnight shift after a short rest period during the afternoon and early evening."

The board also recommended the FAA and union train controllers in how to schedule sleep and limit interruptions during their time off.

A separate letter to the FAA recommended the FAA expand to all controllers its training program in how to manage tasks at work to ensure vigilance.


On the Net:

NTSB: http://ntsb.gov/

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