The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post on fatigue.

In that time, the FAA has rescinded its guidance that trainees are allowed to staff the midshifts.  Good.

It has also, quietly, partially rescinded its 9-hour between all shifts decision.  Now, the 9 hours are required only between a night shift into a day shift.  Much more in keeping with the recommendations of the joint FAA/NATCA Fatigue Workgroup with a real benefit to combating fatigue.  Good.

I see the last as a hopeful sign that the FAA has taken a step back to attempt to see the pros of implementing the fatigue recommendations in a slow, well-thought-out measured approach that truly considers the short-term and long-term benefits on fatigue mitigation and safety as well as the impacts on scheduling and staffing.  It gets tiresome, irritating and downright confusing for us lowly controllers when the FAA “regulates” in a rapid-fire manner to appease the media, Congress and the flying public instead of thinking it all through and doing what’s truly the best for safety.

We’re seeing press that is more balanced and addressing the whys instead of the headline-making, public-scaring type.  Good.

Praxis has had a couple new posts – here and hereGood.

So far, though, the Agency has chosen to make all its changes via memo.  No GENOTs, etc.  (Remember Lexington?)  Bad.

Some supervisors/managers are basing their decisions on some of the earlier memos regarding staffing/responsibilities on the midshifts rather than the most current ones.  Guess it’s more than a little confusing for the higher-skill set, too.  Bad.

The Agency is still making us call each other every 15 minutes during lunch breaks on the mids.  It goes against controller training to make unnecessary transmissions/coordinations, but we’ve been ordered to do so.  Yet they’re also counseling/disciplining controllers for having non-ATC-related discussions on those same mandated non-ATC-related “are you awake?” coordinations.  Bad.

The Agency is still intent on wasting management resources by having them “remind” us not to get sleepy on the mids.  I’m hearing of events of supervisors showing up on midshifts just to play on the computer while controllers are quietly watching their dark scopes.  Has an IWR-like quality to it and only breeds contempt.  Bad.

More than one facility is now looking into either temporarily or permanently reducing air traffic services on the midshifts because of staffing.  Bad.

Some facilities are attempting to use the second midshift body to staff the early dayshift hours in the tower or radar in violation of the contract which states: Since position rotation and breaks may be restricted or precluded during shifts with the majority of hours between 2330 and 0630 local time, breaks/assignments to less busy positions shall be accomplished in the last two (2) hours of the shift as soon as operational conditions permit.  In essence, those managers are now attempting to manipulate “operational conditions” (i.e. the schedule) to have the most fatigued individuals work the early bird traffic.  Ugly.

Since my last post, the FAA has fired onetwo – no, it looks like the total so far is now – three controllers and reassigned one acting manager.  Controllers get fired at record-breaking speed and managers/supervisors gets suspended or reassigned.  If nothing else, that should make those supposed (union-hating) experts who think the union runs the FAA think again.  It should, but it won’t. Ugly.

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