FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
The next time you're on an airplane making a landing in a crowded metropolitan area, the thought may cross your mind whether the air traffic controller handling your flight is awake or asleep or watching a movie or doing something besides helping get your flight safely on the ground. Just a thought.
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Nine incidents are under investigation by the FAA in cities from Washington to Knoxville, Tennessee, to Reno, Nevada, to Seattle, where air traffic controllers reportedly fell asleep on the job and in one case were watching a movie while working.
On Monday afternoon, a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base after coming dangerously close to a military cargo jet. The cause: error by a civilian air traffic controller. The FAA said neither plane was ever in any danger but it is launching a full investigation into that incident, too. The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into what happened.
The last time the air traffic controllers acted up, Ronald Reagan fired all 11,000 of them. The union had decided to strike. President Reagan stepped in and hired nearly 9,000 new air traffic controllers to take their places over the next year. Critics say three decades later, many of those one-time scabs are starting to retire or approaching retirement age, and employee turnover may be part of the problem with air traffic controllers right now. But the funny thing is, I don't recall a rash of sleeping controllers back in the ‘80s.
Over the weekend, the FAA announced changes to controllers' schedules, now requiring at least nine hours between shifts instead of eight. Controllers also will not be allowed to switch shifts with another controller unless they have had at least nine hours off. And perhaps if they're caught sleeping on the job they should be fired instead of merely suspended.
Here’s my question to you: What should be done about the rash of air traffic controller screw-ups?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Outside of training and hiring more controllers, not much. Some reprimands would be in order of course, but there isn't anything new here. It’s just 'hot news'. As in any job pertaining to safety, people are still human, despite our desire for them not to be. They are fallible and prone to errors in judgment.
Dave in Peterborough, New Hampshire:
For one thing, they should stop mixing day and night shifts. This is the most absurd thing I've ever heard of. I've worked for years in the airline industry (in maintenance) and this is such a no-brainier that it was never ever done. I think if there's to be any action taken, it should fall solely on the heads of the people that approved of these schedules.
David in Virginia:
Smarten up, build high-speed rail infrastructure, and enjoy the jobs it creates.
Karen in Fredericksburg, Virginia:
Screw-ups? Maybe not. You try staying up all night with nothing to do but stare at a screen waiting for 2 or 3 flights to arrive. I was a night shift worker for many years and it took me almost a year to adjust. Some people can never adjust. Sometimes sleep just happens.
Thousands of Americans work overnight shifts without sleeping on the job. Simple, they should be fired.
Jack in Lancaster, Ohio:
You know what will be done. The sleepers will get time off with pay to get more "controller" education. Education will be the answer. Let us see if I am correct.
It is a very intense job that has significant downtime at odd hours. I have worked shift work with full nightshifts for years, and unless someone has actually done it, they are not qualified to pass judgment. It's simple stuff folks, there is no way it should ever, ever be a single person job. How would you feel getting on a night flight with only one pilot? Think about it.