New Report Questions Air Traffic Safety

Air traffic controllers are responsible for your safety everyday, but a tired and fatigued controller could have a hard time making the life or death decisions necessary to get the job done correctly, according to a new report.

The National Transportation Safety Board report sheds light on what one controller says is an on-going problem that could easily lead to tragedy.

Amarillo Air Traffic Controller and Union representative Michael Bigler says, "We're talking about a compromise of safety here.  This is one job that you have be at 100%, one-hundred percent of the time, because if we screw up things happen, and we don't want to compromise safety in any way."

Bigler also says that fatigue has been an issue for years.  Now the NTSB is connecting controller fatigue to five airplane incidents nationwide, including a Comair crash in Kentucky that killed forty-nine people.  In this incident, the controller reportedly only slept two hours between shifts.

The FAA sets controller schedules requiring them to have at least eight hours off between shifts.  Bigler says extending that even further would help insure they get a good night's sleep.

He adds, "Why can't we have twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours to insure that that controllers are rested and able to perform their jobs properly."

NewsChannel 10 took the issue to travelers at Rick Husband International Airport who say they are confident they are safe in the sky.

J.C. Calcote is flying to Nashville today from Amarillo.  He says, "It doesn't worry me.  They've got backups and backups and other backups, so you know we've got a great system."

Mark Gilliam is heading home to Rockport, Texas, and agrees: "I feel pretty comfortable flying on an airline and I think the government seems to be watching over this type of thing, especially after 9/11.  So I would guess they've probably got a pretty good handle on it."

The FAA declined to speak with NewsChannel 10, but they do say that they are taking the report  concerning air traffic controllers schedules into serious consideration, as they do with all of the recommendations posed by the NTSB.