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U.S. FAA changes air traffic controller scheduling
17 April 2011

The Federal Aviation Administration announced changes to air traffic controller scheduling practices that will allow controllers more time for rest between shifts.

Research shows us that giving people the chance for even an additional one hour of rest during critical periods in a schedule can improve work performance and reduce the potential for fatigue,

said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

The new scheduling rules have already been put in place and will be fully in effect by the end of the week:

  • Controllers will now have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts. Currently they may have as few as eight.
  • Controllers will no longer be able to swap shifts unless they have a minimum of 9 hours off between the last shift they worked and the one they want to begin.
  • Controllers will no longer be able to switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day off.
  • FAA managers will schedule their own shifts in a way to ensure greater coverage in the early morning and late night hours.

In addition to changes in scheduling practices, a Call to Action effort will include the development of a fatigue education program to teach controllers the risks of fatigue and how to avoid it.

The FAA will also commission an independent review of the air traffic control training curriculum and qualifications to make sure new controllers are properly prepared.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) will expand its own Professional Standards program nationwide which focuses on peer-to-peer education for controllers on how to maintain the highest degree of professional conduct.

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