I just heard that Hank Krakowski, FAA Chief Operating Officer (COO), tendered his resignation in the wake of the recent negative press of controllers and supervisors falling asleep on midnight shifts. I admit, I’m not a fan of his and believe he should have been fired years ago. You can see my opinion of him in this old post, and this one from the FAA Follies from almost 3 years ago. But, in all fairness to the man, his biggest contributions to this latest mess are the staffing/hiring levels and not really addressing the fatigue issues inherent in working our profession and midshifts. And he has lots of company there (decades worth), so to allow his resignation without a real, meaningful change in both those areas is simply disingenuous and a misdirection as far as I’m concerned.
With the current media and the public lack of true understanding of the issues, any current controller is liable to get fired for stating what he/she feels publicly. You’ll probably hear more from retired controllers, like Don Brown or R. Doug Wicker. Praxis just uploaded a post.
I have worked a lot of midshifts in my career and I can state, without equivocation, that I have never missed a call from another controller or aircraft because I was sleeping on duty. The only controller’s call I couldn’t answer (in 20 years) had to do with a serious intestinal issue that had me in the restroom with no way to answer. I could go into more detail, but it was embarrassing, and only worth mentioning because sometimes our bodies betray us, whether we like it or not.
I can also state that I have have experienced difficulties making an ATIS (a totally routine operation) in the past (and probably in the future) at 5 or 6 am because I’ve been so tired that my words coming out of my mouth didn’t match the words in my head. And I’ve had to repeat my actions repeatedly before I had a useable recording. Those are usually the same mornings that I go take a nap in the NATCA office AFTER my midshift is over so that I can safely drive home.
Some people are day people, some are night owls. We all start to feel sleepy when we are continually pushed outside our body’s natural rhythm. It’s a fact of life. Let’s start addressing that issue realistically – staffing adequately and mandating naps as the experts suggest. Making us call each other on recorded lines every 15 minutes is not the answer; it’s a knee-jerk, don’t address the real problem response.