Apr 18, 2011
“We can’t let money stand in the way of safety,” claimed the lying secretary of the Transportation Department, who oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After several recent incidents in which controllers in air towers were found asleep on the job, the head of the FAA resigned.
For decades, the FAA has reduced the number of air traffic controllers. Controllers, responsible for the safety of every person on every plane, are expected to go from day shift to night shift to afternoon shift. These rotating shifts are known to cause sleep disturbances, if not worse problems. Sometimes controllers work what they call “the rattler” – eight hours of work, then supposedly eight hours of sleep and an immediate return to work. It really means they come to work over and over again deprived of sleep.
For more than 20 years, scientists have pointed out that swing shifts are detrimental to health and ability to do a job. More than 20 years ago, scientists at NASA pointed out that airplane pilots are more alert after they are allowed to take naps.
Every head of the FAA, since Ronald Reagan fired all air traffic controllers in 1981, has acted to push more work on fewer controllers.
This is the cause of these near disasters – and real ones to come – not one little scape-goated official.